Russian army bans cell phones and beards

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the new commander of military operations in Ukraine, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov. Gavriil GRIGOROV / Sputnik / AFP

The Russian Ministry of Defense issued several instructions to “professionalize” the army without delay. Before implementing more ambitious military reforms by 2026.

Will 2023 be a year of great upheaval for the Russian military? Since January 11, the command of the troops in Ukraine changed hands and was personally entrusted to the Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov. The first weeks of the year were also marked by several announcements by the Ministry of Defense of Russia. While he thought he was blitzkrieging, Russia started a long war, and now he has to deal with it differently.

Last week, Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the outlines of large-scale military reforms to be implemented between 2023 and 2026. His ministry also announced several more short-term directives aimed at improving the professionalism of the armed forces without delay. , points out that the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a very serious think tank. Among them are bans on Russian soldiers serving in Ukraine from using mobile phones or private vehicles and… from growing beards.

Avoid further disasters

A ban on the use of electronic equipment for personal use in the military is already in place in theory, but is rarely respected. With this measure, the Ministry of Defense seeks to avoid further carnage after Ukraine’s attack that killed at least 89 Russian soldiers (up to 400, according to Ukrainian military authorities). New Year’s Eve. Immediately after this attack, the ministry conveniently placed the blame on Russian soldiers who used their cell phones to wish their loved ones a happy new year.

These electronic devices would allow Ukraine to geolocate a large concentration of troops and strike with precision. In the field, however, this equipment is used to fly reconnaissance drones and transmit intelligence. “Tablets and smartphones are essential to modern warfareDuring an interview with the Russian press, he mentioned Wagner’s manager Yevgeny Prigojine. Thanks to the collected information, the fighters know the general situation and can transmit vital information“.

beard ban,elementary aspect of military discipline»

More anecdotally, the obligation to shave the beard indicates the desire of the Russian high command to professionalize its army. In a diary entry dated January 16, the ISW notes that hygiene on the front lines was often a point of friction between officers and their men, who often refused to shave. According to Reuters, in an interview with the Russian news website RBC, deputy and former high-ranking officer Viktor Sobolev called the beard ban.elementary aspect of military discipline“. “A soldier is seen by civilians, he must look exemplary. If he walks around unkempt and unshaven, it does not respect him as a man or a soldier.“he elaborated.

A significant number of Muslims and Orthodox keep beards according to their religious customs.

Evgeni Prigozhine on Telegram

This measure may seem trivial, but respecting or ignoring these standards is an indication of the professionalism of the troops.ISW notes. Failure to meet these standards can lead to demoralization and poor performance in underperforming and demoralized units.“. Also according to ISW, these directives could very well be published “in order to assess the effectiveness of the chain of command of the Russian military“.

A welcome event

However, this event was coldly received by some relatives of Vladimir Putin. “A soldier must fight.80%time, he washes with a bottle, and shaving is generally a great luxury“Yevguény Prigojine commented on the Telegram channel and described these orders as follows”absurd“and D'”Archaisms of the 1960s“. Wagner’s boss also noted that “a significant number of Muslims and Orthodox keep beards according to their religious customs“.

The argument of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who sees in this directive, “provocationan act of Islamophobia against its soldiers, who are mostly Muslims. “Sobolev knows perfectly well who is wearing a beard on the front line and why“, he wrote on Telegram. The Russian mass media reports with reference to RBC that the commander of the brigade of the separatist forces in Donbass said that this measure has not caused any repercussions on the ground in any case.We have no such restrictions on the front line“, he said.

More ambitious reform by 2026

Anyway, “these directives are likely part of a deeper effort by the Russian Ministry of Defense to undertake extensive military reforms.“, ISW points out. On January 17, the think tank made more ambitious announcements, which were personally detailed by Sergei Shoigu and came directly from Vladimir Putin. By 2026, Russia could thus buildlarge-scale changescomposition, strength and administrative division of the armed forces.

Thus, the Minister of Defense stated that the number of Russian soldiers will increase from 1.35 to 1.5 million people and the Moscow and Leningrad military districts will be restored, which will increase the number of districts to 6. First of all, a new army corps can be created on the Finnish border in Karelia, where the army of this northern country is in a constant state of combat readiness. According to the information provided by the Ministry, new groups of autonomous forces will be deployed in Ukraine and the training of troops will be strengthened. For now, and against the backdrop of the largely unfinished reform of the Russian military in 2008, Russia has nothing to show for it.”will be able to implement these changes within three years», comments ISW.

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