Russian dictator Vladimir Putin may announce a second mobilization wave to expand his army in the coming days — possibly as early as Jan. 18, U.S. think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in a Jan. 17 report.
The ISW said that Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov announced on Jan. 17 that Putin will deliver a speech in St. Petersburg on Jan. 18 in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of Soviet forces breaking the Nazi siege of Leningrad, Putin’s hometown.
Putin is fond of using symbolic dates to address the Russian people, and some Russian pro-war milbloggers (military bloggers) speculated that he would seize this opportunity to either announce a further mobilization or declare war on Ukraine.
Ukrainian and Western intelligence also repeatedly warned of Putin’s mobilization preparations scheduled for mid-January, the ISW said.
Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced on Jan. 17 that he will implement Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s directive to conduct large-scale military reforms between 2023-2026 to expand Russia’s conventional armed forces, likely in preparation for a protracted war in Ukraine and also to set conditions to build a significantly stronger Russian military quickly.
Shoigu stated that he executed Putin’s order, and outlined such aspects of reforms:
· an increase in the number of Russian military personnel to 1.5 million (from the current 1.35 million);
· unspecified “large-scale changes” in the composition, complement, and administrative divisions of the Russian armed forces between 2023-2026;
· the need to strengthen the key structural components of the Russian armed forces. Shoigu announced that Russia will reestablish the Moscow and Leningrad military districts, form a new army corps in Karelia (on the Finnish border), form new self-sufficient force groupings in occupied Ukraine, and form 12 new maneuver divisions;
· an increase in Russia’s capabilities to adequately prepare its forces by developing more training grounds and increasing the number of trainers and specialists.
According to the ISW, these reforms demonstrate Russia’s intent to reform the Russian military to conduct large-scale conventional warfighting in general and not just for the current war against Ukraine.
However, it is unclear if the Russian military will be able to grow as Shoigu described within three years.
“Russia can nominally form new divisions, but it remains unclear if Russia can generate enough forces to fully staff them to their doctrinal end strengths amid an ongoing war,” ISW experts said.
“Shoigu made previous announcements about Russian military reforms that never came to fruition, such as in May 2022 when he called for the formation of 12 new Western Military District (WMD) units of unspecified echelon by the end of 2022 and for the Russian MoD to recruit 100,000 reservists in August 2021.”
Other key takeaways by ISW analysts:
- Serbian President Alexander Vucic called on the Wagner Group to cease recruitment in Serbia;
- Russian forces continued to conduct limited counterattacks near Kreminna as Ukrainian officials continued to suggest that Russian forces may be preparing for a decisive effort in Luhansk Oblast;
- Russian forces continued offensive actions across the Donetsk Oblast front line;
- The Russian information space is struggling to portray tactical Russian gains around Soledar as operationally significant;
- Russian forces in Kherson Oblast continue to struggle to maintain their logistics efforts in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast due to Ukrainian strikes;
- Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin may be attempting to establish the Wagner Group as a legal entity in Russia.