Ukrainian officer on manpower shortages — interview

Maksym Zhorin
Maksym Zhorin

Deputy Commander of the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade, Major Maksym Zhorin, spoke in an interview with NV Radio on April 18 about the manpower shortage in his unit and whether Russia could achieve a breakthrough on the battlefield.

NV: We know that Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi was tasked by Volodymyr Zelenskyy to rotate and replenish the brigades that were deployed in combat for a long time. How is the progress on that?

Zhorin: If we’re talking about the [recently adopted] mobilization [reform] law, of course, there will be no such quick action, reaction, and changes. As of today, the situation hasn’t changed significantly. Unfortunately, the issue of rotation is quite difficult in all brigades that today are deployed at the contact line or close to it.

I can give a simple example of how recovery is taking place today, at least in some brigades. A brigade stationed in a difficult area where it suffers losses during heavy fighting would simply be redeployed to a calmer area. Today, it’s almost impossible to withdraw to rest, recover, and replenish. Today, at least some brigades at the front don’t have this luxury.

Therefore, even a redeployment from a more difficult area to a calmer one to have at least a little opportunity there for recovery, and for bringing in new people, replenishment in terms of equipment — this is what a rotation means today.

Of course, we cannot call it rest, as it hardly allows the soldiers to recuperate. Yes, there’s less fighting, it’s a bit calmer and easier. But it’s still extremely difficult for infantry to serve in this mode — when hell is replaced by a milder version of hell. Therefore, the issue of rotation today is quite difficult.

Speaking of the mobilization law, I honestly believe these are positive steps in the right direction. But the question is how fully it will be implemented.

My opinion is that it’s still pretty soft in terms of responsibility [for avoiding the draft] and isn’t exactly comprehensive. Because when we talk about mobilization, at least of the male part of the population, we shouldn’t only talk just about recruitment and training centers. We should talk about preparing the civilian population: about military registration, about normal and adequate training in educational centers, and about fair distribution of recruits. Therefore, it’s a rather complex system, on which a lot of work will have to be done, and not just by the commander-in-chief.

NV: I want to hear from you as an officer who serves in one of our most prominent brigades: do we have a big problem with manpower? Do you have no rotations because we lack recruits?

Zhorin: Of course, this is entirely due to the fact that the army lacks people. That’s why we cannot replace [the losses], the brigades are understaffed, we cannot carry out normal rotations. Of course, this is primarily due to the manpower shortage in the military.

Read also: Ukrainian President Zelenskyy signs new mobilization bill

NV: How do you think it can be solved? As far as I understand, the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade no longer has any problems with the manpower.

Zhorin: I won’t say there are no problems, but we have much fewer of them than other brigades. This is because we solve the issues of recruiting, training, and selection of people ourselves. We work separately with training centers, maintain our own training centers where we train personnel and sergeants ourselves. Therefore, this process is easier for us, not so problematic, not so painful.

If we talk in general about how to solve this for the army, we must understand this is a complex issue. We must approach it from all sides, in particular we must understand and realize that it shouldn’t start with the army, but with the civilian population. It’s necessary to work informationally, train people, mobilize civil society, and work with them even before they end up in the military. This may include both the training of the civilian population, and proper information work, proper reputational work with the image of the military and the army, because there are also problems with that.

In addition, we have our own recruiting experience, which, I think, can be adopted from us, little by little. Some brigades are already doing this. Today, not only we have our own recruiting centers, today there are also other brigades that are engaged in this. Perhaps not in such a volume and not with such a result, but still. Those brigades are taking the initiative and working on it, they have these processes running. The same can be adapted and scaled for the broader force.

NV: About demobilization. Our colleague Pavlo Kazarin, who is now serving in the military, said that we don’t have stories of success, of men who went to fight in the war, came back, and continued to live their civilian lives. Instead, the perception is that once you’re in, you will serve until victory—which nobody knows when it might happen—or you come back maimed or in a coffin.

Zhorin: I have the following position on this issue. I can immediately answer that I’m one of those who would also like to demobilize someday and return to my civilian life, to my civilian affairs. For example, I don’t see myself in the army on the very first day after our victory. I’ll be happy to return to my work, which I was doing before the war.

But today I see no option in which we could afford demobilization. Even if we partially solve the issue with mobilization, even if we partially solve the issue with rotations, we simply cannot afford demobilization today.

No matter how much we would like to plan, build our lives with an understanding of some terms and similar things, all this is not there for one simple reason: we don’t have some limited military campaign or some limited military tasks, we have a war. A full-scale war. So yes, today everything looks like we have to mobilize and fight until we win. There are simply no other options, we just don’t have those options.

Demobilization can lead to a huge tragedy: the loss of seasoned troops, and in general, the loss of a large number of soldiers. In fact, I’m sure some of them would come back in a while. I saw it even in 2014, 2016, 2017, when people said that’s it, I’m tired, I want to leave. They leave, struggle to adapt to civilian life, and return to the military in a few months.

But we simply cannot afford it today, considering the scale of the struggle, the volume of enemy forces and resources. The reality is that [demobilization] can only happen after victory. And any of our dreams, plans, everyday things that we would like to return to, can only happen after victory. Because otherwise we simply won’t see this victory.

Read also: Russia can mobilize 30,000 troops monthly – UA’s intell chief

NV: Western media now write that the frontline could soon collapse, that Russia is about to break through. How do you view the situation?

Zhorin: Of course, we can imagine something like that happening. What’s more: we should always plan and consider the worst scenario. If we talk about the current situation, I can say the Russians have really become very active, and not only on the front line. They’ve really stepped up their intelligence work, for example.

They’re actively working, trying to influence us in the information field, because for them it’s all a part of hybrid warfare, as they like to call it. That’s how they see it, it’s not only the events on the battlefield.

If we narrow it down to the battlefield, to whether it can collapse… do I believe it can happen now, in the near future? No, I don’t believe that [the frontline] will collapse. They can break through some areas where they amass troops, we’ve already seen that. The Russians know how to stubbornly exert pressure on those areas that they choose as the direction of their main efforts.

They amass troops and begin to exert pressure. If it’s not enough, if 50,000 soldiers have been killed, they’ll send another 50,000 and will continue. If 100,000 soldiers are killed, they’ll send another 100,000. They can still afford to expend this resource, and it’s precisely at its expense that they break through the areas.

I don’t believe they’ll either break through all areas at once or will achieve large-scale success anywhere in the near future. But the fact that they’ll try to break through not only the frontline, but also through other sections of our border, yes, it can happen. And there’s a high probability that we can see that this year.

NV: What can we do to avert that?

Zhorin: First of all, the enemy has finite resources, we must understand that. They [the Russians] are doing a lot of work to convince us that they can sustain any number of casualties, but this isn’t the case. They’re much more tolerant of losses than we are because they have more of them and they treat them differently, they live in a different cultural world. But nevertheless, they suffer losses and feel them. The further it goes, the more they’ll feel them.

We must rekindle our national spirit, mobilize the entire society. I believe this is achievable if we also properly develop our own military-industrial complex and build up our own resources to continue the fight. Our victory absolutely is real both on the battlefield and in general—in terms of Russia ceasing to exist.

We’re bringing the voice of Ukraine to the world. Support us with a one-time donation, or become a Patron!

Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine