Are they really sending circus acts into a war zone?
Yes. The scheme, initially announced by the Russian Defence Ministry on Dec. 14, was confirmed by the British MoD on Sunday, Dec. 18.
In a statement, the MoD said that the so-called "creative brigades" are intended to counter "fragile morale" among Russian troops which, "almost certainly continues to be a significant vulnerability across much of the Russian force".
"Military music and organized entertainment for deployed troops have a long history in many militaries," the statement said, "but in Russia they are strongly intertwined with the Soviet-era concept of ideological political education."
How on earth will it help Russian troops?
Well, of course, it most probably won’t. "Fragile morale almost certainly continues to be a significant vulnerability across much of the Russian force," the statement continued, adding that the move was "unlikely" to alleviate concerns held by Russian soldiers.
"Soldiers’ concerns primarily focus on very high casualty rates, poor leadership, pay problems, lack of equipment and ammunition, and lack of clarity about the war’s objectives, " the statement added.
"The creative brigades’ efforts are unlikely to substantively alleviate these concerns."
How bad is morale within the Russian forces?
Reports of disgruntled and disillusioned Russian troops have been widespread since the start of Russia’s illegal invasion in February – and have on occasion even originated from soldiers themselves.
In the rare display of defiance, punishable under Russia’s oppressive laws, the widely circulated clip showed the group complaining about being given poor quality equipment and receiving no pay – complaints echoed by other Russians recently conscripted to the front lines in Ukraine.
"They are not paying us our salaries as promised by the Ministry of Defence,” one of the Russians, identified by British newspaper as being the troop leader, says to the camera: "This video is being shot on Oct. 21, and our salaries have yet to be deposited."
"I also want to bring attention to the fact that soldiers don’t have their gear, vests, gloves, flak jackets, helmets and armor plates," he adds. "The Turkish gear we have been given is of poor quality."
The footage followed a similar clip released the week before, showing a different group of Russian conscripts complaining that they had been "thrown out like dogs."
The men claimed they had been essentially "abandoned in Ukrainian fields" and were forced to live in holes in the ground they had dug with their bare hands.
"For a month we were being prepared for something, although it’s not clear what for," one conscript said in the video.
"We were transported back and forth and now it turns out we are somewhere in the fields of Ukraine. We were just thrown out like dogs here… We just live in the field."
Is it true that Russia intends to extend the conscription period?
The "special operation" – a term used by propagandists to label Russia’s ongoing brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine – was predicted by Putin to be over in a matter of days. Thanks to the brave and strong Ukrainian army and the resilience of Ukrainians, that however, those "few days" have turned into months, with no end in sight. This has not only put huge strains on morale and Russia’s arsenal, but has caused tensions inside Russia itself.
Amid growing public unrest over Moscow’s mandatory military service push, the Kremlin has denied it plans to increase the period of conscription from six months to a year. But, as Russia has frequently demonstrated, its word should always be taken with a pinch of salt.
In a video posted on Telegram, that has since been deleted, Russian Lieutenant Colonel Mikhail Fotin, military commissar for the towns of Taldom, Dubna and Dmitrov in Moscow Region, alleged that an extension of the conscription period would come into effect in 2023.
Rebuffing the claim, the Russian Defence Ministry told reporters on Sunday, Dec. 18, that Moscow was "not considering changes to the legal code of the Russian Federation," clarifying that "this is concerning changes to the length of military service of conscription."
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