Victory Is Extremely Unlikely, Ukrainian Colonel Told The Times


Ukraine’s prospects of a battlefield victory are not looking good and the country must prepare for the worst, two lawmakers in Kiev told The Times of London in an article published on Friday.

The British newspaper described the mood in the Ukrainian capital as “one of grim acceptance rather than defeatism,” acknowledging that Kiev has abandoned hopes of “imminent victory” in favor of trying not to lose any more territory.

“Right now, a victory on the battlefield is extremely unlikely. This war could last for years and years. Russia has the resources for this and their people will put up with it,” said Colonel Roman Kostenko, who commands a unit on the Kherson front but also serves as a member of parliament.

The MP, who sits on the Verkhovna Rada’s committee for national security, defense and intelligence, was skeptical that any weapons promised by the U.S. and its allies could turn the tide.

“I do not think there is any weapon right now that can have a strong influence on the outcome of the war,” Kostenko is quoted as saying. Long-range ATACMS missiles “cannot bring about a breakthrough” and F-16 fighters “can only help us achieve parity,” he added, noting that Russia has “hundreds” of more modern jets.

“I do not understand who has it in their head that we can defeat Russia with dozens of F-16s,” Kostenko said.

A more realistic goal, Kostenko argued, would be to hold territory and minimize casualties, while launching long-range strikes against Russian targets. “We cannot afford to fight symmetrically with the Russians,” he told The Times, because “mathematically we will simply run out of people faster than they will.”

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has called for mobilizing another half a million men to replace the battlefield losses, which have become impossible to deny. One soldier on the Kharkov front, who requested anonymity, told the UK newspaper he does not bother giving new troops call signs, as “most of them do not last long.” 

Svyatoslav Yurash, another MP who is in the military, described the fighting as “painful” and said the Ukrainian forces “cannot respond to everything the Russians are throwing at us.”

“We should hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That is the reality of it,” said Yurash, a 27-year-old private. His hope for victory is that the Russians rebel and change – or destroy – their own government. 

“Moscow can be taken, just not by our armed forces per se,” he said.

Military and financial aid from the West, on which Kiev has become dependent over the past two years, appears to have dried up due to political disputes in Brussels and Washington. Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov told the Times he did not think the U.S. would abandon Ukraine to “the forces of evil,” while President Zelensky’s adviser, Mikhail Podoliak, argued that Russia has “tasted the blood of democracy” in Ukraine and must be stopped.

The current situation was the fault of the West, Podoliak said, for not giving Ukraine the weapons and supplies it needed soon enough.

Ukraine Running Out Of Crews For German-made Battle Tanks

The Ukrainian Armed Forces are reportedly experiencing a shortage of personnel to train in the operation of Leopard 2 tanks, according to a report by Die Welt’s correspondent in Kiev, Paul Ronzheimer.

It follows an announcement on Tuesday by Zelensky that the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine had requested to mobilize an additional 450,000 to 500,000 people. Some lawmakers have even proposed drafting women if deemed necessary.

Kiev’s forces have been suffering heavy casualties amid the ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive, with Russia’s Defense Ministry revealing earlier this week that the Ukrainian Army had lost nearly 400,000 troops since February 2022.

In his report, Ronzheimer noted that Kiev’s plans to mobilize half a million people had caused “shock” among Ukrainians and demonstrated how “difficult the situation is for Ukraine.”

The journalist noted that Ukraine’s shortage of troops and difficulties mobilizing additional forces are problems that have existed for a long time. As one example of these long-standing issues, Ronzheimer pointed out that training centers in Germany for teaching Ukrainian soldiers to operate Leopard 2 tanks are currently operating at half capacity.

“This means that at the moment there are not enough people for training, and if this war lasts longer, it will naturally cause problems. Because in the end everything depends on how many soldiers each side has at its disposal,” Ronzheimer said.

Ukraine has carried out multiple waves of mobilization since 2014, and officially declared martial law following the launch of Russia’s military operation in the country last year. However, Kiev’s mobilization efforts have been hampered by widespread corruption, which prompted Zelensky to fire the heads of all regional draft offices in August.

Additionally, it is estimated that tens of thousands of draft-dodgers have either left the country or have gone into hiding from military recruiters.

In a Facebook poll posted by Ukrainian MP Mariana Bezuglaya on Monday, an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians also stated that they would be willing to renounce their citizenship in order to avoid being drafted into the military. Out of some 4,300 men who took part in the poll, 73% said keeping a Ukrainian passport was not worth the risk. Of the 3,800 women who responded to a similar question, 65% said they would not risk their lives for their citizenship

Zelensky Aide Complains About Rampant Corruption

Many public officials in Ukraine continue to engage in corrupt practices despite the ongoing conflict with Russia, Podoliak, a senior aide to Zelensky, said on Saturday, adding that bribes remain a socially acceptable norm.

Ukraine has been plagued by rampant corruption for decades, ranking 116th out of 180 on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index in 2022. Several high-profile corruption scandals over the past year have also been a major source of concern for Kiev’s Western backers.

Asked if Ukrainian officials understand the gravity of the situation amid the conflict, Podoliak told ‘We – Ukraine’ TV: “If you are living in a certain environment where it is considered really cool to be able to take bribes and buy yourself [anything you want] when everyone else is in a difficult situation or to just increase your wealth everyone in your circle will consider [you to be] a ‘successful person,’” the presidential aide explained, arguing that this is the mentality of a “certain layer of the Ukrainian population.”

Podoliak also said there are some who distance themselves from the conflict, accusing people who enjoy their lives and go out to night clubs of being “irresponsible.”

“For some people, the war does not exist,” he said, claiming they “do not care if Ukraine will be preserved or not.” He estimated that up to 15% of the Ukrainian population is prepared to become part of Russia.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that Ukrainians are increasingly refusing to fight for what they consider to be a corrupt and incompetent government. According to the paper, Ukrainian men often attempt to avoid conscription through bribery, forgery, and fleeing the country.

In August, Zelensky launched a sweeping military purge by firing all regional military officials responsible for the country’s conscription campaign. This came in the wake of a massive corruption scandal in which 112 criminal cases were opened against officials in recruitment centers over bribery.

In November, the Ukrainian government replaced the head of the state cyber security and data protection agency, after prosecutors implicated him in an embezzlement scheme.

A poll conducted the same month showed that 63% of Ukrainians believe corruption is the country’s biggest problem apart from the war. 

The EU Commission, which greenlighted accession talks for Ukraine last month, also demanded that Kiev implement a series of anti-corruption reforms. 

Conscription In Ukraine Becoming More Aggressive, Says New York Times

Ukrainian military recruiters have taken to “snatching” men off the streets and forcing them to fight, the New York Times reported on Friday. With casualty rates soaring, recruiters have allegedly turned to the injured and disabled to fill the ranks. 

“Recruiters have confiscated passports, taken people from their jobs and, in at least one case, tried to send a mentally disabled person to military training,” the NYT reported, citing interviews with Ukrainian lawyers, activists, and draftees.

Among those forced into service were a man with a broken arm, a man whose lawyer said he had “an official diagnosis of ‘mental disability’ from childhood,” and ordinary workers cornered as they left their jobs and were forcibly driven to recruitment centers. 

The man with the broken arm managed to escape from the recruitment center, he told the newspaper, but others unable to flee are faced with a stark choice: pay a bribe to be deemed unfit for service or get sent to the front line. One recruit who fought last year in Artyomovsk (called Bakhmut in Ukraine) called the bribe “a buyout from death.”

“Videos of soldiers shoving people into cars and holding men against their will in recruiting centers are surfacing with increasing frequency on social media and in local news reports,” the Times noted.

The New York Times’ reporting on the issue comes amid a shift in the Western media’s coverage of the conflict. Western outlets now portray President Zelensky as “delusional” for believing that he can succeed on the battlefield, paint Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive as an ill-advised failure, and speculate on whether the Ukrainian military will “unravel” in the coming months. 

Although the Ukrainian military does not publish casualty figures, U.S. officials believe that Kiev has lost more than 150,000 men in almost two years of fighting. Aleksey Arestovich, a former aide to President Vladimir Zelensky, puts the figure at up to 300,000, while the Russian Defense Ministry counts 125,000 Ukrainian casualties between early June and mid-November alone.

Such stark losses, combined with the fact that “many Ukrainian men have either fled or bribed their way out of the draft,” have forced recruiters to resort to these “aggressive conscription tactics,” the Times stated. However, the quality of recruits being sent to the front line has diminished as a result, according to accounts from active servicemen.

“We need people, but trained people, not the green ones we have there now,” a Ukrainian soldier told the BBC earlier this month. “There are guys who had spent just three weeks in training, and only managed to shoot a few times.”

“Everyone who wanted to volunteer for war came a long time ago,” the soldier continued. “Now we are getting those who did not manage to escape the draft. You will laugh at this, but some of our marines cannot even swim.”

Ukraine Struggling To Find Fresh Conscripts, Says Washington Post

Ukraine is facing a dwindling pool of new conscripts as its military is “running out” of career soldiers, the Washington Post has reported. The newspaper noted that Kiev has considerably tightened controls on its Western borders as dozens of draft-age men try to leave the country illegally by the day. 

Earlier this week, Mikhail Podoliak, a top aide to President Zelensky, acknowledged that further mobilization in Ukraine is bound to be complicated. The official expressed hope that by honing the “propaganda element,” the government would be able to improve the situation.

In its article on Friday, the Washington Post observed that, at this juncture, “even more than bullets, Ukraine needs fighters, leading to a search for new ways to mobilize the population and stronger measures against draft dodgers.” 

While “tens of thousands” of volunteers are still joining the military, many draft-eligible Ukrainians “are less than eager to fight for a military and national government that is viewed as rife with corruption and incompetence,” the Washington Post claimed.

The article described how draft dodgers are trying to sneak out of the country despite a ban placed by the government at the start of the conflict on men aged 18-60. Some are said to bribe officials to get a certificate of medical disability, while others attempt to forge documents on their own.

Other men trying to avoid the mobilization are attempting to cross the border via official checkpoints, hiding in secret compartments in vehicles, or even posing as clergy members and women.

Andrey Demchenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service, told the Washington Post that there have been at least 825 cases where draft-age men have tried to bribe border guards since the start of the hostilities in February 2022.

Still, others are hiring professional guides hoping to lead them through mountainous areas to Romanian soil. Some men are undertaking the risky trek in freezing temperatures on their own, the newspaper details, adding that some have drowned or frozen to death in the process.

Kiev’s push to recruit more manpower follows the underwhelming summer counteroffensive. 

Discord Among Frontline Troops

Ukrainian frontline troops are disgruntled with the way Kiev is handling the ongoing conflict with Russia, including the gaslighting it engages in via the national media, retired Gen. Sergey Krivonos warned on Monday. Soldiers wonder why they must shed blood on behalf of an uncaring government, he claimed.

Krivonos is a critic of President Zelensky, who sacked him from the National Security and Defense Council in late 2020 for allegedly not being a team player. The commander, who has since left the military, allegedly under pressure, blasted what he perceives to be a disconnect between the government and the military. He was interviewed by Priamyi, a TV channel that currently broadcasts only online that is historically associated with the country’s former president Pyotr Poroshenko.

The general said Kiev was “teasing the tiger” with its treatment of troops, who, he warned “may act quite harshly” in response.

“There are not cemeteries, but entire burial fields. People on the frontline take such things to heart and they do not accept shades of gray. For them, there is either black or white,” he said.

Kiev does not report its casualties, but Western media say that they must be steep, judging by the rapidly expanding graveyards and other circumstantial evidence.

Kiev is running out of career military and is struggling to conscript soldiers, since civilians “are less than eager to fight for a military and national government that is viewed as rife with corruption and incompetence,” the Washington Post reported last week. 

Krivonos cited a recent announcement by the Ukrainian state-owned railway operator that seasonal trains would be on offer for people visiting ski resorts as an example of what irritates troops. He believes the country needs to go into total war mode and accused Zelensky of failing to do so due for fear of losing popularity.

The Zelensky government has contributed to the problem by using the state-controlled “television marathon” – the only programming on the air – to gaslight the public, the general said. He called the content “one of the worst manipulations” of the Ukrainian people.

Another problem is tolerance of graft, he alleged. People who empty their pockets buying overpriced eggs should not get farewell applause from MPs and disappear into the night, he said in a clear nod to Aleksey Reznikov. The former defense minister was sacked in September, months after a scandal erupted over the procurement of overpriced food for troops by his department.

‘Reznikov’s eggs’ reports became the subject of gallows humor in Ukrainian trenches.

Ukrainians Refusing To Fight For Corrupt Government, Says Washington Post

Draft-age Ukrainians are unwilling to fight for President Zelensky’s “corrupt government” and avoid conscription through bribery, forgery and perilous attempts to flee to neighboring countries, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

Within days of Russian troops entering Ukraine, Zelensky ordered the country’s borders sealed for men aged 18-60, stationing extra guards along the frontiers to stop potential soldiers from leaving. Now, with Zelensky’s former aide claiming last week that fresh men are in short supply.

“Honestly, we need more soldiers. The professional military personnel are running out,” an assault team leader with Ukraine’s 68th Brigade told the American newspaper. 

Kiev has repeatedly expanded its conscription efforts, taking in older men and those previously deemed unfit to fight, while reports suggest that teenagers could soon be pressed into service. Ukrainian authorities have already dropped a rule exempting men under 28 with no previous military experience from the draft, yet several civilians in this category told the Washington Post that they have no intention of showing up.

A 20-year-old man said that he was “not eager to risk his life in the military, given stories he has heard from friends in the ranks about insufficient training and endemic corruption, such as paying bribes to officers to receive vacation leave,” the Post reported, noting that “many are less than eager to fight for a military and national government that is viewed as rife with corruption and incompetence.”

Faced with battlefield conditions often described as a “meat grinder,” as many as 650,000 conscription-aged men have left Ukraine, the BBC recently reported, while “hundreds of thousands” more are evading service within the country, Deputy Defense Minister Natalya Kalmykova stated in October.

Those fleeing stow away in cars, bribe border guards, or take their chances trekking through forests and crossing rivers to enter neighboring Romania, the Post reported. Guides reportedly offer safe passage through the wilderness for $1,200 and up, while “the going rate for bribing a guard on the Moldovan border is $300.” Those staying in Ukraine often bribe military officials for papers marking them as exempt from service.

“Even if you are missing a leg, they’ll say you can still fly drones,” one deserter told the newspaper, explaining that he fled to Romania because “ordinary Ukrainians are fighting and dying while members of parliament and other elites cruise around in Mercedes and other fancy cars,” in the Post’s words. Others did not make it, including a 46-year-old man who froze to death last month.

The manpower shortage has crippled Ukraine’s ability to retake land from Russian forces. Speaking to the BBC last week, a Ukrainian soldier said that his men had been promised several brigades to launch an operation into the Russian-held eastern bank of the Dnieper River near Kherson. Instead, he said that he received a handful of individual companies of young conscripts. 


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