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'The army has nothing': New Russian soldiers complain of lack of supplies | Ukraine

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When her recently mobilized brother Vladimir called from the front last week, Olesya Shishkanova recorded the phone call – and with it a series of complaints.

“They gave us absolutely no equipment. The army has nothing, we had to buy all our equipment ourselves,” complained 23-year-old Vladimir, who was enlisted as part of Vladimir Putin’s mobilization earlier this month.

“I even had to paint my gun to cover the rust. It’s a nightmare… They’re going to make us buy our own grenades soon,” she added in a call that Shishkanova saved and uploaded to her page on the Russian social media site VK.

Vladimir’s story is far from unique. As more evidence emerges that Russia’s under-supplied army cannot even provide them with basic necessities when they arrive at the front, newly mobilized men across the country are buying everything from thermal underwear to body armor.

Dozens of discussion channels have sprung up on Telegram, where wives and sisters of mobilized men share their advice on where best to buy body armor and clothing for their relatives before they set off to fight in Putin’s war in Ukraine.

“From morning to evening, I scan the internet for good deals for our children,” said Anastasia, a member of the Help for Soldiers group in Russia’s Sverdlovsk region, close to the Ural mountains.

Anastasia said that despite the defense ministry’s statements that all mobilized soldiers will be dressed and equipped, the local recruitment office in Sverdlovsk “strongly recommends” newly mobilized soldiers to bring their own equipment.

For some Russians, the shortage of basic equipment feeds the growing awareness that their armies, lauded as a world-class fighting force before the invasion, were painfully inadequately prepared for war.

“It’s bad enough that our men have been taken away,” said Anastasia, a teacher from Bryansk, a Russian city less than 100 miles from the Ukrainian border.

“We had to spend our monthly salary on my husband’s gear so that he could at least have a chance to come back. Frankly, it’s totally embarrassing. It’s a mess,” he said.

The shortage of goods led to shortages and sharp increases in prices in outerwear stores and online markets selling military equipment.

Prices for bulletproof vests have increased by 500% and they are now selling for up to 50,000 rubles (£710), according to a report by trading hub Kommersant. Similar price increases were seen for helmets and basic camping gear.

“Our stocks are empty. Aleksei, owner of a walk and open-air shop in Russia’s fourth-largest city, Ekaterinburg, said that two days after the mobilization was announced, sleeping bags ran out.

“We only have a few winter boots and two tents lying around. This has never happened to us before.”

The small equipment that the army gives to newly mobilized soldiers appears to be outdated or completely inadequate.

In a video circulating on social media, a mobilized Russian soldier complains He said he was given body armor made for Airsoft games that doesn’t have real bullet resistance. Similarly, in a front-line call to his sister, Vladimir said that his unit had been given Airsoft weapon sights.

Even before Putin’s mobilization move, the military shortcomings of the Russian army, the world’s second largest on paper with a budget of around £58 billion a year, were painfully exposed as Moscow’s failure to achieve its goal of a quick takeover of Kiev.

After Russia’s military offensive in Georgia in 2008, the country’s defense ministry, led by Putin ally Sergei Shoigu, sought to renew the military and vouch for rooting out corruption, while aiming to transform it into a sophisticated, modern power.

But since Russian tanks entered Ukraine on February 24, military equipment has systematically staggered to a degree that surprises most western analysts.

At an intelligence briefing on Sunday, the UK Ministry of Defense said one reason for Russia’s “poor performance” in Ukraine was “pervasive corruption and poor logistics”. The ministry said the average amount of personal equipment Russia provides to its mobilized reserves is “almost certainly lower than the already meager supply of previously deployed troops.”

“I am not at all surprised to see the mess the military is in,” said Gleb Irisov, a former air force lieutenant who left the Russian army in 2020 and is now living in the US.

“The military has always been deeply corrupt and these issues have never been properly addressed. While our elders were getting richer, they did not spend money on personnel,” he said.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his investigative team have released a series of disclosures, including an investigation into a £16m mansion allegedly owned by Shoigu in 2015, that linked top defense officials with expensive properties and secret bank accounts. Other data show that embezzlement occurs across all ranks of the military.

A recent study by BBC News Russian showed that in the past eight years military courts have handed out more than 550 sentences for theft of clothing from army stocks. In total, court data revealed that over the same period, more than 12,000 corruption cases were filed involving the theft of military equipment and equipment, with some cases occurring even after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Pavel Luzin, an independent Russian military expert, said the scale of Putin’s mass mobilization exacerbated some already existing problems.

“Russia was not yet ready for a mobilization of this scale. It was bound to have logistical problems. ”

Luzin explained that over the past two decades, the Kremlin has been trying to overhaul its army, moving from a conscription-based army to one based on professional forces.

“When mobilization was announced, there was no mechanism to actually implement it,” said Luzin.

The glaring equipment and logistical issues have become too important of an issue for the authorities to ignore.

On Wednesday, Valentina Matviyenko, a senior politician and member of Putin’s security council, instructed the country’s anti-monopoly institutions to regulate market prices for military equipment.

“Prices for essential items have skyrocketed for recruited recruits. “It is unclear why, on what basis,” Matviyenko said.

Hours after Matviyenko’s announcement, Russian prime minister Mikhail Mishustin urged businesses to “rapidly ramp up the production of equipment and technology” needed for what Moscow calls a “special military operation.”