December 22, 2022
SINGAPORE – President Vladimir Putin has said that the Russian army must learn from and fix the problems it had suffered in Ukraine, promising to give the military whatever it needed to prosecute a war nearing the end of its 10th month.
In a speech to defence chiefs in Moscow on Wednesday, Mr Putin said there were no financial limits on what the government would provide in terms of equipment and hardware.
“We have no funding restrictions. The country and the government are providing everything that the army asks for,” he said.
His comments came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky headed to Washington to meet President Joe Biden on Wednesday, address Congress and seek “weapons, weapons and more weapons” in his first overseas trip since Russia invaded Ukraine 300 days ago.
Mr Zelensky said the visit was meant to strengthen Ukraine’s “resilience and defence capabilities” amid repeated Russian missile and drone attacks on the country’s energy and water supplies in the dead of winter.
Mr Biden would announce nearly US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion) in further military assistance for Ukraine that would include a Patriot missile battery to help it defend itself against barrages of Russian missiles, a senior US official said.
“…Weapons, weapons and more weapons. It is important to personally explain why we need certain types of weapons,” Mr Zelensky’s political adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said. “In particular, armoured vehicles, the latest missile defence systems and long-range missiles.”
Mr Zelensky’s visit was expected to last several hours.
At Wednesday’s meeting with his country’s high-ranking officers, Mr Putin said Russia will continue developing its military potential and the combat readiness of nuclear forces against the backdrop of Moscow’s offensive in Western-backed Ukraine.
He added that Russia will also “improve the combat readiness of our nuclear triad”, and highlighted the new Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, which Russian troops will be able to use beginning January.
“In early January, the Admiral Gorshkov frigate will be equipped with the new Zircon hypersonic missile, which has no equivalent in the world,” Mr Putin said.
Nearly 10 months on from its Feb 24 invasion, Russia occupies a huge swathe of eastern and southern Ukraine along a front stretching some 1,100km but has suffered a series of defeats that have swung the war’s momentum in favour of its smaller adversary.
Even pro-Kremlin war bloggers have expressed anger and dismay at the performance of Russia’s generals, the chaotic conduct of a mobilisation and the ceding of territory Russia had captured – most notably last month when it pulled out of Kherson, the only provincial capital Russia had seized since beginning the invasion.
Mr Putin gave his backing on Wednesday to a plan to boost the size of the armed forces by more than 30 per cent as he said Moscow needed to learn from and fix the problems it had suffered in Ukraine.
At the same televised meeting, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu proposed to Mr Putin to beef up the armed forces to 1.5 million combat personnel from 1.15 million, and raise the age for mandatory military service to a new range of 21-30, compared to 18-27 at the moment.
This was required “to guarantee the solving of problems related to Russia’s military security”, Mr Shoigu told Mr Putin. He said 695,000 of the fighters should be professional contracted soldiers – as opposed to conscripts serving mandatory military service.
Mr Putin had signed a decree only this summer ordering troop numbers to be increased by 137,000 from Jan 1, 2023, to reach the 1.15 million level, and has also drafted more than 300,000 reservists in its mobilisation drive to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Shoigu also said that Moscow plans to use two Ukrainian port cities on the Sea of Azov that its troop seized during the offensive.
“The ports in Berdyansk and Mariupol are fully functioning. We plan to deploy there bases for support vessels, emergency rescue services and ship repair units of the navy,” he added.
Russia last publicly disclosed its losses on Sept 21, saying 5,937 soldiers had been killed. That number is far below most international estimates.
On Wednesday, Mr Putin said he still considered Ukrainians – who have been killed in their tens of thousands, forced to flee in their millions, and seen whole towns and cities destroyed – to be a “brotherly” people.
“What is happening is of course a tragedy, our common tragedy, but it is not a result of our policy,” he said. REUTERS, AFP