Mercenary groups paid by Moscow are trying to convince inmates to fight in the invasion.
WASHINGTON – Russia is struggling to attract recruits for its military amid its setbacks in Ukraine, while the United States is open to sending Western tanks to Ukraine, a major US target, a defense official said Monday.
“The Russians are performing so poorly that news from Kharkiv province has inspired many Russian volunteers to turn down combat,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the state of Russia’s war in Ukraine. and added that the leader of the Grupo Wagnera Kremlin-linked private military company, had been seen in videos posted on social media asking Russian, Tajik, Belarusian and Armenian prisoners to join the fight in Ukraine.
“We believe this is part of Wagner’s campaign to recruit more than 1,500 convicted felons,” the official said.
“But many refuse.”
Last week, a video posted online and analyzed by The New York Times showed the Wagner Group promising convicts that they would be released from prison in exchange for a combat tour of six months in Ukraine.
It is unclear when the video was shot.
The official added that Russia was failing its own strategic objectives, noting that the Russian president Vladimir Putin reiterated last week that the “main objective” of its invasion was limited to capturing Donbasthe region of eastern Ukraine where Russia has recognized as two independent small states backed by the Kremlin, but where Ukraine still controls several key cities and towns.
And, at a regional summit in Uzbekistan on Friday, Putin said Russia was committed to his “special military operationl”, despite Russian losses in the northeast and the Ukrainian offensive in the south, near the port city of Kherson.
Furthermore, the Ukrainian forces now they control all their territory west of the Oskil River in eastern Ukraine, the official said, and have liberated more than 300 settlements in Kharkiv province.
With Ukrainian troops continuing to retake territory from Russian forces and the war nearly seven months old, the Pentagon is discussing how best to support Ukraine for a long-term war.
Part of that, the official said, includes Ukraine’s transition away from its Soviet era weaponry and its replacement by those used by NATO and other Western armies.
While the United States and other nations have provided Ukraine with Soviet-era tanks, the Pentagon signaled its openness to also transferring the main battle tanks Westerners to Ukraine.
“Armor is a really important area of capability for the Ukrainians,” the official said.
“We recognize that there will be a day when they will want to transition, and may need to transition, to NATO-compliant models.”
President Volodymyr Zelensky he has repeatedly asked Western allies for more equipment and ammunition, saying the ongoing counteroffensive hinges on getting more.
He alluded to the need to speed up aid deliveries in his late-night speech on Monday.
“Peace is very important now,” Zelensky said.
“We talk about this honestly. The pace of providing aid to Ukraine must correspond to the pace of our movement.”
And despite its problems with troop numbers and organization, Russia still has a significant advantage over Ukraine in supplies and ammunition.
“Tanks are absolutely on the table along with other areas,” the US defense official said.
“We are looking at the entirety of the Ukrainian armed forces and considering for the future what capabilities they will need and how the US and our allies can support Ukraine in developing those capabilities.”
“In terms of the immediate fight, the tanks available that could be provided very quickly with little to no training are Soviet-type tanks, but we’re certainly open to other options as long as training, maintenance, and keeping them can be taken care of. “
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