Disinformation Dispatch: Russia's Partial Mobilisation
In a pre-recorded address at his desk, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilisation across the country, amidst the backdrop of the deteriorating “three-day” special military operation in Ukraine and looming referendums taking place in Ukraine territories with Kremlin-installed governments. As always, Moscow’s message is carefully constructed and released in a timely manner as the world leaders convene in New York for the 77th United Nations General Assembly (an event Putin has elected to skip). While the announcement initially prompted multiple narratives about Russia’s strategy, looking deeper his words don’t match the reality on the ground.
The backdrop of the referendums
The announcement comes as Kremlin disinformation ecosystems are continuing to attempt to justify the four referendums taking place in occupied Ukrainian territories. Voters in these regions will be asked whether they should become part of Russia. The referendums would have no international legal legitimacy and have been strongly commended by scores of countries. Signs have been erected across the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics which attempt to highlight friendship with Russia, as well as the restoration of historical order. Narratives have also heavily pushed the idea of safety with Russia, with the Kremlin’s protection portrayed as crucial. Disinformation ecosystems have seen an uptick in claims over the west’s agenda to prolong the war in a bid to destabilise Russia, a common narrative.
The news caused a jump in prices on flights operating to and from Russia. Kazakhstan swiftly announced it would not issue permanent residence permits to Russians without permission from Moscow after Russian citizens fled to visa-free countries. Several countries, including Estonia and Latvia, announced they would not grant asylum to Russian citizens evading mobilisation
"Partial mobilisation means that only specific groups of people can be called to serve. However, there are no specifics."
Partial mobilisation means that only specific groups of people can be called to serve. However, there are no specifics. Immediately 300,000 military reservists would be summoned; these include people who have specialised experience or have served in the Russian army previously. Men and women can be called up as reservists dependent on their rank. The specifics of specialised experience have also been barred from public knowledge, primarily because this would give an insight into Moscow’s military weaknesses.
Listed dismissal from military service included the achievement of a certain age, state of health or a court sentence of imprisonment. Although it will take months, the Russian Defence Ministry essentially will decide which men, where, and in what quantities will be sent to the war.
Logistics speak louder than words
Russia is facing deep logistical issues - mobilisation is not going to be a catalyst in solving the complexity of military logistics. The training of millions of recruits will be complicated by equipment and leadership hurdles. The war in Ukraine has depleted much of Russia’s equipment, prompting the country to use outdated equipment such as T-62 tanks. New troops will be unable to obtain sufficient equipment and will struggle to find relevant training officers to teach them how to operate said equipment.
Another factor, sometimes overlooked, is morale. Bringing inexperienced people to the frontlines of war with poor morale, next to recruited prisoners and private military groups, leads to a questionable strategy that may be indicative of Kremlin panic. Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov suggested opponents of the partial mobilisation should be sent to the front lines of Ukraine. Hurling people who don't want to fight into the trenches can lead to an acceleration of defeat, which has left many people confused by the circulating rhetoric.
Putin’s address to the nation demonstrates this is not a time for rapid offensives. Civilians are not ready to be turned into soldiers, nor does the mobilisation solve Russia’s deep equipment program. As British intelligence indicated, the decree is a sign of the exhaustion of Russia’s military volunteers.
Written by Perri Grace.
Edited by Wade McCagh.