“Within two days, more than 800 men between the ages of eighteen and fifty showed interest,” says recruiter Alik Kamaletdinov from Bashkortostan, Russia, who in May on the VKontakte platform called on local men to sign up for the Bashkir battalion and head off to fight in Ukraine. Interest was so enormous that officials announced the creation of a second battalion in June.
At the start of the sixth month of the invasion, Russia is suffering from an increasingly urgent troop shortage, and regional troops made up of hastily trained volunteers motivated by money appear to be part of its effort to find a piecemeal solution. The example of Bashkortostan has already been followed fourteen other regionsincluding Tatarstan, Chuvashia or the Primorsky Krai.
However, analysts warn that the maintenance of these battalions will be very expensive and they are at risk of significant losses. “These units will probably produce soldiers of lower quality, but with salaries close to professionals,” states the American Institute for the Study of War . According to him, the Russian army expects to send men from the regions to fight after thirty days of training.
The capital of Bashkortostan, Ufa, is located about 1,400 kilometers from Moscow:
While battalions from Bashkortostan await deployment, regional units from Chechnya and North Ossetia are already fighting in Ukraine. According to Bashkir oppositionist Ruslan Gabbasov, it was Chechens loyal to their leader Ramzan Kadyrov who inspired the creation of the Bashkir battalions.
“The chief representative of Bashkortostan, Radij Khabirov, is jealous of Kadyrov’s fame and influence. He put forward the idea of establishing the banners in order to get closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin and gain his trust,” he believes.
Recruiter Kamaletdinov has no doubt that there will be high morale in the Bashkir battalions, as “men will fight alongside their compatriots”. However, such cohesion may paradoxically pose a problem for the Kremlin. Since the 19th century, Russian army recruits have been deliberately mixed in units with those from other regions to ensure their loyalty to the central government, not regional.
“It goes radically against the entire tradition of the Russian forces. Units created on the basis of shared ancestry pose a danger. When units are mixed, then disloyalty can be suppressed by turning the entire formation against the disloyal soldier. But here the entire unit can turn against the commander,” he told the newspaper The Moscow Times Russian army expert Pavel Luzin.
According to Luzin, regional battalions will not only be more prone to mutiny, but may also cause political instability in their regions upon returning home. “These soldiers might think upon their return that the Moscow government has forced them to fight for its stupid goals and is treating them as docile colonized natives. It’s a really explosive cocktail,” he believes.
But the Kremlin seems willing to risk it. If each of the country’s 85 federal entities provides at least one battalion of 400 men, it could mean 34,000 new fighters on the Ukrainian front. And Moscow desperately needs them. The Kremlin has been secretive about casualties and has so far admitted only 1,351 casualties, according to estimates analysts but in reality he had already lost at least 25 thousand men.
However, general mobilization is not yet in play. “For the Kremlin, for President Vladimir Putin, mobilization would be a huge risk,” he said in an interview with iDNES.cz army expert Lukáš Visingr, according to whom it would mean huge logistical complications, the transfer of millions of people and it could provoke fundamental resistance from the younger generation.
Russia tries to lure men to regional battalions with astronomical rewards, many times higher than the average wages in their place of residence.
According to Kamaletdin’s post, those who entered the Bashkir battalions, earn 200 thousand rubles (80 thousand crowns) a month. For active participation in the battles, they are entitled to another eight thousand rubles a day (three thousand crowns). In addition, Bashkortostan officials pledged to pay recruits an additional entry bonus of 200,000 rubles. Average wage in the capital, Ufa, it amounts to 15,000 to 20,000 rubles (eight thousand crowns).
“Mostly people who urgently need money and are over 40 years old come forward,” stated activist Gabbasov. According to Luzin, the effectiveness of these men in the fight against the highly motivated Ukrainian army is questionable. “Their deployment probably won’t change the trajectory of the war,” he believes. According to MT, the deployment of both battalions from Bashkortostan is expected in the coming days.