Russian troops in Kazakhstan are refusing to return to Russia because they do not want to be deployed to the war in Ukraine, Ukrainian intelligence officials said Saturday.
There are roughly 1,000 Russian troops in Kazakhstan according to Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense. The directorate says that the the military contingent stationed in the country “does not want to replenish the composition of the occupation contingent” in Ukraine, according to a translation of a post on Telegram.
However, it also said that the “formal reason for the refusal is the lack of special air transport, which is fully engaged in the war with Ukraine.”
Ukrainska Pravda first reported on the claims from the intelligence officials on Saturday.
In its Telegram post, the directorate said that Moscow does not want to completely withdraw troops from Kazakhstan. The troops were sent to the country in January following rallies against its government. The directorate added that Russia has almost completely withdrawn its troops from nearby Tajikistan and Armenia to support its war in Ukraine.
Newsweek has reached out to Russia’s Ministry of Defense for comment.
The claims about Russia’s troops in Kazakhstan come as Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for his military to add additional troops amid the ongoing war. Putin has ordered the military bring on 137,000 new troops, which would bring the total number to 1.15 million, by January 1.
Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling said Saturday that he believes the development shows the Russian military is “in trouble.”
“Are they going to just put these new soldiers that they recruit through the basic training that they have, which truthfully, is not very good and then send them right out to a unit to try to learn combined arms operations, which are very difficult, without any additional training? If that’s the case, they’re going to be in trouble,” Hertling said in an interview on CNN.
In May, The Daily Beast reported that a Russian soldier said that his commander shot himself in the leg to escape the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian intelligence directorate released a phone call at the time, identifying the speaker as a Russian soldier speaking with his mother.
“This won’t end anytime soon. What the hell do I need this for? At 20 years old…I’m not at all interested in Ukraine. I need to come back and resign,” the soldier said during the call. “I had a commander…who shot himself in the leg just to get out of here. And that was in the very beginning!”