Russia’s resources for Ukraine war are unlimited despite ‘issues’, says Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin has hit back at claims the Kremlin has left Russia’s armed forces fighting without key equipment, saying the war in Ukraine could be financed without “limits” and ordering the military to be open to criticism as his full-scale invasion of the country nears the 10-month mark.

“The military operation has highlighted issues that we need to work on specifically,” including “communications” and “automatisation”, the Russian president said on Wednesday.

Speaking to Russia’s defence ministry, which has faced unprecedented, Kremlin-sanctioned criticism for struggling to supply the front lines and retreating from the southeastern regions of Ukraine that Moscow had annexed only weeks earlier, Putin said Russia had “no limits” on financing the war effort.

Putin’s comments are likely to be the most important prepared remarks the Russian president makes until the new year.

The Kremlin admitted earlier on Wednesday that the president would not make his annual state of the union address, despite being required to do it within the calendar year under Russia’s constitution.

Civilian officials such as Viacheslav Volodin, chair of the lower house of parliament, and even the Russian Orthodox Church patriarch Kirill attended Wednesday’s speech — a highly unusual step intended to mark its significance.

Putin played down the war’s impact on Russia’s economy, which is set to contract 3.5 per cent — a far shallower fall than expected earlier this year when western sanctions were first introduced.

He said Russia would not “militarise” its economy because “there is no need” for it, insisting he did not want to “repeat the mistakes of the past”, when “we destroyed our economy for defence purposes”.

Despite the west’s efforts to deplete Putin’s war chest, Russia’s budget deficit in 2022 will reach just 2 per cent, according to the Russian ministry of finance. This is something it can easily cover with state borrowing and increased spending from its $187bn national welfare fund, the country’s sovereign wealth fund.

In an attempt to respond to criticism of the supply efforts, which have seen soldiers forced to buy basic equipment such as socks and boots out of their own pockets, Putin insisted “the country provides everything, everything the army needs,” including “everything a soldier needs to be modern, comfortable and reliable”.

Putin urged the defence ministry to “listen to the criticism and respond to it”.

While Russia in March made “discrediting the armed forces” a crime punishable with up to 15 years in prison, the Kremlin has tacitly approved criticism of the military since then. Lawmakers, state television pundits and prominent bloggers embedded on the front lines have attacked the army for supply, logistical and strategic failures.

While talking about the need to modernise the army, Putin said Russia “knows everything about Nato’s resources and abilities and needs to study it thoroughly and use it to increase its military capacity”.

He vowed to maintain the combat readiness of Russia’s nuclear triad, which can fire missiles from land-based launchers, submarines and strategic aircraft. “This is the main guarantee of our sovereignty and balance of power in the world,” added Putin.

Speaking right after Putin, Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia’s nuclear force had successfully conducted a special exercise on carrying out a large-scale nuclear strike “in response to the use of weapons of mass destruction by the enemy”.

Russia’s “nuclear triad is being maintained at a level that guarantees our ability to implement strategic deterrence”, Shoigu added. 

According to him, Russia needed to create a new military grouping in the north-west of the country, claiming that this was in response to Nato developments. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden have requested to join the alliance. 

Shoigu admitted that Russia had run into problems attempting to mobilise 300,000 men for the frontline over the past two months. It was a “serious challenge” for the country and the armed forces, Shoigu said. “Mobilisation hasn’t been introduced since the Great Patriotic war,” he added, using the Russian term for the second world war. 

“The mobilisation system turned out not to be fully adapted to new economic relations, so we encountered problems”, Shoigu confirmed. There have been numerous reports of people being drafted despite legal immunity from it, as well as of equipment shortages, poor training and inadequate accommodation.

The minister said 830,000 people had also been freed from military service duties in order to support the economy. 

He supported Putin’s line of unlimited resources by claiming that financing allowed Russia to increase weapons delivery to the army by 30 per cent. He also claimed the Russian army was co-operating with 109 countries around the world, despite attempts to isolate Moscow.

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