Russia creates new volunteer ground force as troop numbers flag, UK intelligence questions effectiveness

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Russia is looking to bolster its ground forces fighting in Ukraine by creating a new ground force of volunteer recruits as its casualty count climbs, the U.K.’s defense ministry said Wednesday. 

In an intelligence update defense officials said Moscow is raising volunteer recruits from across the country to join Russia’s new 3rd Army Corps which will be based east of Moscow in city of Mulino.

Service members of pro-Russian troops in uniforms without insignia drive an armoured vehicle with the symbol "Z" painted on its side in the separatist-controlled village of Bugas during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the Donetsk region, Ukraine March 6, 2022. 

Service members of pro-Russian troops in uniforms without insignia drive an armoured vehicle with the symbol “Z” painted on its side in the separatist-controlled village of Bugas during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the Donetsk region, Ukraine March 6, 2022. 
(REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko)

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Britain’s defense ministry said it is “highly likely” that Russian commanders “continue to be faced with competing operational priorities of reinforcing the Donbas offensive, and strengthening defenses against anticipated Ukrainian counter-attacks in the south.”

Russia’s newest army corps has been opened to volunteers up to 50 years in age with “only middle-school education” and in return the recruits have been offered “lucrative cash bonuses” following their deployment.

According to the intelligence update, the Russian army corps typically consists of 15,000 to 20,000 troops, but British defense officials believe its newest force is “unlikely to be decisive” in Moscow’s war.

Militants of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic stand in front of an apartment building, which locals said was damaged by recent shelling, in the separatist-controlled town of Yasynuvata (Yasinovataya) in the Donetsk region, Ukraine February 24, 2022.

Militants of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic stand in front of an apartment building, which locals said was damaged by recent shelling, in the separatist-controlled town of Yasynuvata (Yasinovataya) in the Donetsk region, Ukraine February 24, 2022.
(REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko)

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“It will probably be difficult for Russia to bring 3 AC up to this strength, given very limited levels of popular enthusiasm for volunteering for combat in Ukraine,” the defense ministry assessed. 

The announcement comes just days after the Pentagon said it believes Russia has taken heavy causalities with an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 wounded or killed in Ukraine. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has refused to call his invasion into Ukraine anything but a “special military operation.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the State Awarding Ceremony at the Grand Kremlin Palace, June,12, 2022, in Moscow, Russia. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the State Awarding Ceremony at the Grand Kremlin Palace, June,12, 2022, in Moscow, Russia. 
(Contributor/Getty Images)

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Putin has also suggested he has yet to fully deploy Russia’s military might in the former Soviet nation, though Western defense officials have contested this claim. 

Concerns have also mounted that Russia will look to utilize foreign support from nations like Belarus as they ramp up military drills along Ukraine’s border. 

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