Vladimir Putin ready for ‘mass mobilization’ of troops for Ukraine as Russian funeral bills rise
Spending on funerals in Russia has risen 17% since the invasion of Ukraine, Western officials say in an update on Vladimir Putin’s progress in a “crushing and slow-moving conflict” with rising costs.
Briefing reporters, Western officials said ordinary Russians are beginning to see the human cost of the invasion and that the massive mobilization of civilians into the military is “about to happen”.
Because the Kremlin also fears that a nationwide mobilization will stir up unrest in the cities, it is trying to increase the pool of fighters by “carrying out very heavy recruitment” in poor areas and increasing the age limit for serving, officials said.
Moscow is “concerned” about the mobilization because it would be an “admission of failure” in what was supposed to be a quick and clean operation in Ukraine that has turned into a slow and crushing conflict, officials said.
Officials added that the economic and human cost of the conflict was obvious to ordinary Russians and would increase as winter set in.
An official said: “We don’t know the scale of Russian casualties, our current estimate is around 20,000 dead, but we’ve seen reports of huge increases in funeral spending in Russia since February. “
Western officials said there was “more chatter” about Vladimir Putin‘s health and “more speculation” about who would replace him in Russia.
The 2024 presidential election “certainly looks more interesting than it did perhaps six months ago,” the officials said.
However, there did not appear to be an “immediate threat” to the position of the Russian president from the elite or the general population, they said, even though around 20,000 Russian soldiers were killed in the war in Ukraine.
While there are political consequences for how Putin harms Russia’s position in the world and its economy, they are unlikely to happen this year or “in a way that helps Ukraine”, officials said.
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