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Vadym Skibitskyi: russians Motivated to Fight for Money. 1,000-1,100 Males Join Army Every Day

January 15, 2024 / "RBC-Ukraine"

Vadym Skibitskyi: russians Motivated to Fight for Money. 1,000-1,100 Males Join Army Every DayVadym Skibitskyi, a representative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, in an interview with RBC-Ukraine told about the goals of russia's current shelling, how many missiles and Shaheds the aggressor produces, what military assistance it receives from other countries, and what tasks does moscow set for itself on the front in 2024.

Since December, russia has started launching massive missile strikes on Ukraine. However, its current targets are not energy facilities, as last year. Bypassing sanctions and assistance from third countries allow moscow to continue producing long-range missiles, increasing the production of strike drones like Shaheds, and overall continuing an aggressive terrorist war.

The repreasentative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, Major General Vadym Skibitskyi, told in an interview with RBC-Ukraine about the current targets of kremlin's missile attacks and the tasks on the frontline in 2024, whether putin is preparing a new wave of mobilization in russia, how russia helps North Korea, and why Iran is interested in supporting moscow.

– We have seen that since December, the russians have again launched massive missile strikes, in particular with the help of strategic aviation. What are the main targets of these strikes?

– Currently, the main efforts of the russian federation are focused on destroying our military facilities. This includes objects of the defenсe-industrial complex, headquarters, control systems, and specific units on the front line.

How accurate are these strikes? The goals set by the russian federation are not being achieved. The weapons used by russia, in particular the "Kynzhal", are not entirely accurate. Unfortunately, this often results in civilian casualties.

– Are energy facilities not currently being targeted?

– The fact that they do not strike these facilities does not mean that the russian federation does not monitor the state of our energy sector. Military intelligence clearly knows that the russians analyzed strikes on our energy facilities in 2022-2023. The russians have identified the most critical facilities that can be hit by missile weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles. The enemy continues to conduct satellite imagery of these objects regularly. They identified the most critical objects that could be affected by missile weaponry and drones. Therefore, the threat to our energy system remains.

– How would you assess the current state of the russian defence industry? We have heard from various sources, including the russian propaganda media, that their factories are allegedly working in three or even five shifts. Is their own production enough to cover their needs at the front?

– If we talk about the so-called russian "defence industry", in the summer of 2022, moscow adopted a series of laws and government resolutions, effectively transferring defence-industrial enterprises to a wartime mode. The number of working days per week increased, and some enterprises even operate in three shifts. But this does not mean that they are doing well in the defence industry.

Vadym Skibitskyi: russians Motivated to Fight for Money. 1,000-1,100 Males Join Army Every DayThe main efforts are now focused on restoring the equipment that was damaged or destroyed on the battlefield. Another issue is the restoration and preparation for combat employment of weapons and military equipment that are being removed from arsenals and long-term storage warehouses to bring them back to normal and send them to Ukraine to fight. The third task is the production of new weapons, primarily artillery systems, armoured vehicles, armoured personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles. The fourth task is the production of ammunition and missiles.

According to military intelligence data, everything produced by russia today is immediately sent to the front and used against Ukraine. However, moscow could not significantly increase the production of weapons and military equipment.

The confirmation of the fact that they lack their ammunition is their purchase of ammunition from Iran and North Korea and the export of almost all ammunition from Belarusian depots. If we talk, for example, about artillery ammunition of 122 and 152 calibers, russian enterprises produced about 2 million such ammunition in 2023. But this does not cover all the needs of the armed formations of the russian federation.

The enemy is trying to establish and increase the production of weapons and ammunition, but faces a number of problems. This is outdated equipment, a shortage of skilled workers capable of performing such high-tech work, and a shortage of components. But the fact that russia has the capacity to produce military weapons and equipment remains a threat to us.

– How much ammunition is the DPRK transferring to russia, and what volumes are we talking about?

– The most active supplies of ammunition from North Korea were carried out in September, October and November. The main ammunition, being supplied from the DPRK, is 122 mm and 152 mm. According to our estimates, we are talking about one million of these artillery munitions that were delivered to the russian federation. This is precisely the deficit that moscow has in shells and cannot cover at the expense of its own production.

– The White House also claimed that russia had allegedly received ballistic missiles from the DPRK and that it had allegedly launched them twice at Ukraine. Does the DIU have any evidence that russia actually received such missiles and used them in Ukraine?

– We are collecting all the data we have today about what is being supplied from North Korea. When the data is confirmed, we will talk.

– When we spoke to you in late October, you commented on the current production and stockpiles of missiles with a range of more than 350 kilometres in russia. At that time, you said that they produce about 115 such missiles per month. What is the current situation with the production of missiles with a range of over 350 kilometres in russia?

– They were unable to significantly increase these volumes. Currently, russia can produce about 115-130 strategic missiles with a range of over 350 kilometers. However, these production volumes may vary depending on the month. The level of production depends on capacity utilisation, on components, because a lot of parts – for example, for the X-101, Kinzhal, Kalibr – are foreign-made.

russia has lost a lot precisely because its companies involved in the supply of components are under international sanctions. And it cannot cover its own needs with its own analogues. Again, for example, in December, they did not produce some types of missiles at all – there was a zero rate, both planned and actual.

Secondly, they are now trying to maintain a certain strategic reserve. As a rule, this is about 30% of what they have in stock. A striking example is that since mid-September, the russians have not used either the Kh-101 or the Kalibr. There was an accumulation of these missiles. Moreover, we understand that everything produced is immediately delivered to the battlefield. Speaking of released cruise missiles, products of the III, and IV quarter of production were recorded during attacks. This once again shows that they do not have very large reserves, and what they produce is immediately used against our country.

– We can also see that since September, when the russians stopped using the Kh-101 and Kalibr, they have been using the Kh-59 missiles from tactical aircraft more frequently. What can you tell us about this missile? Are they producing a lot of them now, or do they have large stockpiles of these missiles?

– If we talk about missiles such as Kh-31, Kh-35, Kh-29, and Kh-59 – they are mainly produced from russian components. In addition, this is a missile of a completely different class – it is not a strategic missile. These are guided aircraft missiles. Accordingly, the targets for which they can be used are also different. These missiles, the Kh-31 and Kh-59, are aimed primarily at air defence assets, at our radar stations, which must be destroyed before or during massive strikes.

As for production, it depends on the type of missile. Unfortunately, they have the capacity to produce 100-115 missiles of this particular operational and tactical class (such as X-31, X-59, etc.)

– What is the situation with the production of Shaheds in russia? According to the statistics for December, it appears that they did not use Shaheds only one night. Such massive use of them - in November, October and September - indicates that they either have very normal production or they receive a lot from Iran?

– Indeed, it was the most massive employment of Shahed-type unmanned aerial vehicles in December. If I'm not mistaken, the enemy used about 770-780 units of these attack UAVs in December. We are only talking about those that we recorded. Because there is still a certain percentage - approximately 4% - of those that did not reach, do not start, or exploded immediately after launch. We have confirmed data from the russian side that such cases occur.

Vadym Skibitskyi: russians Motivated to Fight for Money. 1,000-1,100 Males Join Army Every DayIn terms of production, the russians did have the first contract, which provided for the supply of unmanned aerial vehicles from Iran. After that, they set up their own production, and it is already operating in russia, in particular in yelabuha. At least two production lines are currently deployed there. But for the most part, components come from other countries.

The next thing that moscow has managed to do so far is to set up production of the airframe, the body of these UAVs. russia is already producing them on its own. More spare parts and components are now coming from other countries, so everything is not just about Iran. Our assessment is that the russian federation is capable of, and is already producing or assembling unmanned aerial vehicles on its own territory. This is evidenced, firstly, by the fragments we find after enemy attacks. Secondly, if we talk about the engines in the Shaheds, they used to be made by a maximum of two different companies, but now we are talking about at least 3-4 different companies, including Chinese ones.

The goal of moscow is to achieve a complete, closed cycle of production of such UAVs on russian territory by 2026. I'm not sure they can replace or find a russian analog, such as electronic components – microchips, chips, etc. But the Russian Federation currently manufactures starters, casings, warheads, engines, and other elements of the navigation system.

– Do you have any data on approximate production volumes? How many of these "shaheds" come off the assembly line per day or per month?

– This also depends largely on the number and availability of components. According to the agency's estimate, russians can produce 330-350 units of these UAVs per month. Such indicators, for example, were demonstrated by the aggressor in December. However, they also vary depending on the availability of components, especially engines. As soon as the engines arrive, the number of finished products will increase to more than 300.

But, as in the case of missiles, all Shaheds or so-called Geran-2, which are produced, immediately go into combat use. And that's why we see a different number of UAVs being used. December showed that even if the enemy had some reserves, they are now depleted, and all these UAVs that are launched come off the conveyor belt.

– We saw that on some days only a few of these "shaheds" were launched. Were these interruptions in supply, or are they also using these drones to reconnoiter the location of our air defence?

– The tactics can be different. The enemy has started using these "shaheds" against our facilities, especially military facilities on the front line - they had never done this before. They were mostly used against our facilities deep inside the territory of Ukraine.

Secondly, there is the impact of the weather. Frost, wind gusts, or snow - all affect the combat use of UAVs. This vehicle operates at low altitudes and its engine is not designed to operate in such conditions.

- So, help with drones, help with ammunition. What does Iran else do militarily to help russia?

– Iran is developing military-technical cooperation with russia because Tehran is interested in Russian weapons. Iran wants to receive modern aviation, such as the Su-34, training aircraft, and radar stations. Negotiations between them are ongoing.

– What can you say about the russian air defence system? Because we see that something is often flying towards russia - drones, missiles. And the russian media often report that they have allegedly shot down everything - 41 out of 39 UAVs were shot down. Is their air defence system really that strong?

– There is, of course, an element of russian propaganda here. During the war, the russian federation significantly strengthened its air defence on many directions, including the occupied Crimea, particularly the area around the Kerch Strait Bridge, where a powerful air defense system was deployed. This includes the moscow direction on the territory of the russian federation and other regions. On these specified fronts, reinforcement was achieved, and a layered air defense system was created. However, this was done by redistributing forces and resources from other regions of russia, such as the Far East, the Northern region of the russian federation. These areas are actually exposed in terms of air defence.

How effective is it? It is not always as the aggressor claims. Moreover, everything depends on how successfully we plan our operations, including using drones and other weapons. We know to what extent and in which regions the reinforcement of air defence has occurred and where new systems are deployed. The most powerful system they have in service is the S-400, but even it is not flawless. There are cases where their equipment fails. The well-known Pantsir also misses our assets, which, as a result, reach their targets.

– Does China provide any military assistance to russia?

– The problem here is that the majority - almost 80% of components, especially electronics - enter through the territory of China. And in most cases, they are not even Chinese-made, but from other countries. It's just that China has not joined international sanctions, so it's not a big problem for russians to buy and import the necessary components through China or other countries. Many different joint ventures have been set up, companies that appear for a week, make some purchases, and then disappear.

russia has tried and is trying to obtain ammunition from China. It also tries to get shells from other countries where Soviet weapons remain, including from Central Asian countries.

– Is russia really promoting a message on the international scene that it is ready to negotiate with Ukraine to end the war in some format? And if such messages do exist, do they correspond to the real putin's intentions and those who surrounding him?

– putin's intentions are clear: control over our territory and its complete occupation. And when there is any talk that the enemy is ready to negotiate, we must understand that russia's conditions are not acceptable to our country.

Such rhetoric from moscow is mostly aimed at Western and Global South countries – suggesting they are allegedly willing to stop and start a negotiation process. But what does russia say about our occupied territories? Any negotiations give russia time to restore its potential, build up its forces and create strategic reserves to continue its aggression. We have seen this since 2014 - nothing has changed. Our strategic goal is clear – we must liberate all our occupied territories.

– What do you think we can expect on the frontline in 2024?

– We will probably start from the strategic goals set by the russian federation. What they have been trying to do and achieve since the beginning of the so-called "special military operation" has not been achieved. One of the strategic goals that moscow retains for this year is to reach the administrative borders of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Another objective for the russians, according to the documents available to the DIU, is the maintenance of the currently occupied territories: Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and part of the Kharkiv region.

Another priority they have set for themselves is the destruction of our air defence system, our aviation, our defence-industrial complex objects, to prevent the growth of our production and the strengthening of the Armed Forces' capabilities. These are the tasks that the russian federation sets for itself this year.

– You mentioned the tasks that moscow sees for 2024 on the frontline. Do they still plan to hold a broader, another official wave of mobilisation?

– They have all the conditions for mobilisation activities, including at the legislative level. There is a register of persons liable for military service. There are also plans to form and restore, for example, the leningrad and moscow military districts. All of this will affect the mobilisation needs of their armed forces.

In addition, we see now that all mobilisation is mostly used to replenish the losses that the russian federation is suffering on our territory. To create a powerful strategic reserve, they really need mobilisation - that's for sure. Will putin dare to do it? Not before the elections, probably not. And then we'll see. It's too early to say. But all the conditions for mobilisation at any time are in place in russia.

– How many people do they currently manage to recruit through covert mobilisation, by persuading them to sign contracts with the army?

– Every day, about 1,000-1,100 people join the ranks of the russian armed forces.

– That is, about 30 thousand a month?

– Yes. It is used to replenish losses and to form reserve regiments. But this cannot be called a hidden mobilisation. Let's put it this way: they are mobilising. It is just not as massive as it was in October-December 2022.

In reality, russians are motivated to join the army, primarily driven by salary considerations, especially in crisis regions where wages are low or there are no jobs at all. russian prisoners of war frankly admit that they joined the army because it pays, and there is a "mortgage, a family and so on". This motivation is currently the main factor for those who voluntarily join mobilization, sign contracts, and participate in combat.

– And what are salaries?

– They are different. It all depends on where the unit is located and whether it is engaged in combat. But the russians have a clear definition that a day of combat operations means an additional 8,000 rubles to the salary. Those involved in frontline combat earn approximately 220-250 thousand rubles monthly.

–What about the remains of Wagner PMC now?

– They are all regrouped now. Many so-called private military companies have already been created, which are under the control of both the russian ministry of defence and the russian guard. Those Wagnerites who have signed a contract with the ministry of defence or the russian guard continue their service either in the russian armed forces or in other private companies.

The Wagner Group also reformatted in other countries where they were involved, primarily in Africa and the Middle East - in Syria and Libya. There is no longer a Wagner PMC there as such. There are other private military companies operating there. They are controlled by the russian ministry of defence.

– What awaits us in 2024 in terms of Western assistance? Can we expect to continue receiving military assistance from Western countries in 2024?

– Our allies and partners understand that without their help, it is difficult to wage war against the russian federation, and in some areas it is impossible. Today, the precision weapons we have are all Western-made. Ammunition of 155 calibre is also mostly made in other countries. And they understand that we are now really deterring russia. It failed to achieve the goals it set for itself. And we have simply reduced the potential of the russian federation many times over.

According to our estimates, restoring the potential of the russia's ground forces, which existed before the start of full-scale aggression, will take them five to ten years. To restore the arsenal of precision weapons, it also takes three to five years. Our merit lies in the fact that we did not allow the russian military machine to prepare and launch aggression not only against our country, but also against other countries.

– Will the assistance continue to provide?

– Yes, definitely. I have no doubt. The assistance will be diverse - weapons, military equipment, training, other forces and means to strengthen our capabilities so that we can defend our state and liberate those territories that are currently temporarily occupied by the russian federation.