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2 Oct, 2023 02:36

Conscript more young blood, ex-UK defense secretary tells Ukraine

Ben Wallace, who once called the country a “battle lab,” has urged Kiev to “reassess the scale” of its mobilization
Conscript more young blood, ex-UK defense secretary tells Ukraine

Former UK defense secretary Ben Wallace has claimed that Kiev is succeeding in its counteroffensive, but to “finish the job” President Vladimir Zelensky must throw more and younger Ukrainians into battle, while the West provides them with weapons to defeat Russia.

Throughout the summer, Kiev’s forces have failed to make notable territorial gains and have suffered heavy casualties while trying break through Russia’s defenses, consisting of vast minefields, as well as heavy artillery and swarms of drones. According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, the number of Ukrainian servicemen killed since the start of the counteroffensive has surpassed 83,000. 

Wallace, however, believes that “slowly but surely” Ukrainian forces have been “adapting tactics, absorbing lessons, and making the best of the equipment we have all gifted them,” and that Kiev’s victory is imminent as long as the government “plays its part.”

“The average age of the soldiers at the front is over 40. I understand President Zelensky’s desire to preserve the young for the future, but… just as Britain did in 1939 and 1941, perhaps it is time to reassess the scale of Ukraine’s mobilization,” Wallace wrote in an opinion piece published by The Telegraph on Sunday.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that such heavy casualties were the result of Kiev throwing untrained soldiers into “senseless assaults and slaughter.” He added that these “cynical actions by the West and their henchmen in Kiev are only pushing Ukraine towards self-destruction.”

Back in July, Wallace called Ukraine a “battle lab” for the British military during a report to parliament.

“Let us not pause for one day,” he stated on Sunday. “The world is watching to see if the West has the resolve to stand up for our values and the rules-based system. What we do now for Ukraine will set the direction for all of our security for years to come.”

Mobilization in Ukraine has been ongoing since the start of the conflict and has run into difficulties recently. Scandals involving conscription chiefs prompted Zelensky to announce in August that he was firing all regional draft chiefs.

The Ukrainian government has relaxed eligibility standards for recruits, declaring people with certain mental and physical impairments fit for duty. Kiev barred men aged between 18 and 60 from leaving the country immediately after the launch of Russia’s military operation, and more recently ordered female medics and pharmacists to register for possible enlistment.

The Russian military leadership in the meantime has no plans to conduct mobilization as its current needs are fulfilled by career military service members, including those who volunteered to fight in Ukraine, according to a senior official. President Vladimir Putin reported earlier this month that some 300,000 people had enrolled in the Russian army this year alone.

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