In eastern Ukraine, Russian troops are slowly making their way forward. But there are still massive problems, especially with the staff. Many Russian soldiers simply no longer want to go to the front after their deployment.

The Russian advance in eastern Ukraine continues. Russian forces this week recorded successes around the strategic cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in hotly contested western Luhansk Oblast.

According to a recent briefing by the American military think tank ISW, the Russian military leadership will very likely use the progress at the front for propaganda purposes by declaring the entire Luhansk region to be “liberated”. Large parts of the oblast are under Russian control.

But even if the Russian army in the Donbass is eating its way forward in small steps, Putin’s commanders still have to contend with considerable problems: For example, mobilizing enough troops and replacing the worn-out soldiers with new ones. The ISW cites the spokesman for the Ukrainian military administration in the city of Odessa, Maksym Marchenko.

According to Marchenko, 30 to 40 percent of the exchanged Russian soldiers would refuse to return to the front. As a result, Russian commanders would be forced to send unprepared and unmotivated units back into combat. One reason for the miserable morale is still the often poor supply of food and medicine, the ISW briefing goes on to say.

A wiretapped telephone call by Russian military personnel in the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) also shows how things are in some cases with the Russian armed forces. The conversation was published by the Ukrainian secret service. On the recording, DNR soldiers are said to be complaining that physically unfit people are being forced into service.

A statement that coincides with the 40 percent problem mentioned above. Another piquant detail of the sound recording: During the operations in Donetsk, many Russian soldiers are said to have been very drunk.

In addition to poor morale and dissatisfaction in the troops, Russia is primarily concerned with the Ukrainian counter-offensives further south. Especially in the Black Sea region of Cherson. So far, the city of 290,000 has been the only Ukrainian regional capital occupied by the Russian army. More than half of the population has already fled the administrative area, according to the head of the regional Ukrainian military administration, Hennady Lahuta, in a TV speech on June 1st.

Now, however, the Ukrainian armed forces could have reconquered lost areas and put the Russian soldiers in the regional capital of the same name on alert. The example of Cherson shows how difficult it is in some places for Russian troops to hold onto areas that have already been conquered.

At the beginning of May, the American Russia expert Paul Christensen made a very similar assessment in an interview with FOCUS Online. At the time, he said that Putin and his troops could never feel safe in the Donbass region: “Because the Ukrainians will never give up their resistance.”