Russia has “almost certainly” established major new ground forces in a village east of Moscow as it seeks to gain the upper hand in its war with Ukraine, according to United Kingdom intelligence.
The U.K.’s defense ministry said in a tweet on Wednesday that the Russian government likely plans to pull resources for a large proportion of the force from newly formed “volunteer” battalions that are being recruited across the country.
The ministry said Russian regional politicians have confirmed that the recruits are being offered “lucrative” cash bonuses once they deploy to Ukraine, and recruitment is open to men up to 50 years old and with only a middle school education.
A Russian army corps usually consists of 15,000 to 20,000 soldiers, but Russia will likely have difficulty keeping the new force at that amount, according to the U.K. ministry.
The ministry said the level of enthusiasm for volunteering to fight in Ukraine is low, and the new force is unlikely to be decisive in the campaign.
Ukraine has reportedly been planning a counteroffensive to retake territory in Kherson, a city taken by Russia early in the war. The ministry said Russian commanders are likely to continue to be faced with competing priorities of completing Russia’s assault on the eastern Donbas region and strengthening forces in the southern part of Ukraine against counterattacks.
Russia took control of the Luhansk province in Donbas last month and is trying to take control of the region’s other province, Donetsk, but has struggled to move forward.
The U.S. State Department announced on Tuesday that it would provide $89 million to help Ukraine with demining efforts, a day after an announcement that the United States is providing $1 billion in military equipment to Ukraine, its largest package so far.