Russia sends a new army corps to Ukraine. His troops are “unfit and old”.

Photos appeared online over the weekenddepicting Russian army armored vehicles on trains leaving the Mulino army training base, 200 miles east of Moscow, are a potentially worrying sign.

The newest grouping of the Russian army, the 3rd Army Corps, is marching towards eastern Ukraine. III Corps is the first major new formation to take shape following the Kremlin’s urgent move, starting this summer, to recruit new soldiers and build new units to make up for the dozens of thousands of soldiers it has lost in the six months since it expanded its war in Ukraine.

The 3rd AC will, to some extent, reinforce the fighting strength of the Russian army beaten in Ukraine. But it’s unclear how effective the corps could be in combat with battle-hardened Ukrainian battalions. While the 3rd AC attracted relatively modern equipment, its recruits – mostly middle-aged men – are indicative of the wider manpower challenge of the Russian Army.

Aging Russia doesn’t have many highly motivated and fit young men to spare. And that means the 3rd AC could go into battle at a disadvantage.

The Russian army that attacked northern, eastern and southern Ukraine on February 23 comprised about 125 battalion tactical groups divided into 10 army groups, overseeing a total of about 125,000 frontline troops. It was 80% of the Kremlin’s ground combat power.

This army suffered heavy casualties totaling up to 80,000 killed and wounded, according to a recent assessment by the US Department of Defense. This is twice as many casualties as the Ukrainian army probably suffered.

The heavy casualties help explain why the Russian operation fizzled out. In February, Moscow’s objective was to destroy the Ukrainian armed forces, capture all major Ukrainian cities east of the Dnipro, occupy Kyiv, overthrow the Ukrainian government and capture the entire Ukrainian coast from the Black Sea, including the strategic port of Odessa.

Kyiv’s offensive collapsed in late March. The southern offensive stalled short of Odessa. The Ukrainian army, despite its losses, is still fit for battle. Kyiv’s government is intact. Along with the diminishing combat power of its army, the Kremlin has also reduced its ambitions. Concentrating its surviving forces in the east, the Russian army finally succeeded in late July in capturing the last free city on the eastern bank of the Severodonetsk River in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

After that, the forehead froze. To the east, Russian forces advanced a mile here, a mile there, while Ukrainian troops fought their way across the Inhulets River to the south, positioning them for a possible push towards occupied Kherson. Russia on the Black Sea coast east of Odessa. .

Neither army is likely to gain much ground unless and until they restore the combat power they have lost since February. In May, the Kremlin began to muster new battalions by attacking the training and garrison establishment of the existing brigades. At the same time, the army announced an initiative to form dozens of new regional volunteer battalions – and even offered high salaries of up to $5,000 a month.

The recruiting drive immediately clashed with Russia’s unfortunate demographics and conscription practices. About half of the 900,000 members of the Russian armed forces are professionals on long-term contracts. The other half is made up of conscripts between the ages of 18 and 27.

Conscripts only serve one year and, by law, are not expected to fight. Of the roughly one million young men who are within the conscription age bracket, about a third are exempt for medical or educational reasons. Twice a year, the Kremlin touches around 200,000 of the 700,000 who are eligible for one-year military service.

There is not a lot of excess labor in the conscription pool. For the most part, they are not the ones who will supplement the volunteer battalions. Instead, the Kremlin is targeting older men, two million of whom have previous military experience and are technically in the military reserve.

It is not for nothing that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law in May abolishing the age limit of 40 years for new recruits. And it’s not without reason that the ranks of 3rd AC feature lots of gray hair, weathered faces and pot-bellied midsections. “Images of III Corps elements showed the volunteers to be physically unfit and old,” noted the Institute for the Study of Warfare in Washington, DC.

Potentially worse for their combat prospects, the 3rd AC and other new units were poorly trained and lacked experienced NCOs. As a consolation, the 3rd AC at least goes to Ukraine in fairly modern vehicles, including T-90 and T-80BV tanks. Other Russian reinforcements arriving in Ukraine have been loaded with very old equipment, such as T-62 tanks that the army has removed from long-term storage.

The size of the 3rd CA is unclear – a Russian corps usually numbers up to 20,000. It is also unclear how commanders will deploy the corps. He could fight in one formation, most likely in the Donbass. Or commanders could divide it into brigades and battalions to plug holes in army groups that are already in Ukraine and have buried thousands of their best soldiers.

Either way, not everyone is convinced that a newly arrived corps will make much of a difference in a war that is killing Russians at the rate of 200 or more a day. ‘Effect of 3rd CA unlikely to be decisive for campaign’, UK MoD declared.

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