Low morale is crushing the Russian army and people as the country faces its harshest winter

Russians could be facing one of their worst winters, in a country where December through February sees arctic winds pushing temperatures below zero.

While the mercury dips to -7C in Moscow, it can reach -60C at night in Siberia.

Nine months after Russia’s war against Ukraine, Vladimir Putin’s initial belief that the army could capture the Ukrainian capital Kiev in just two days has vanished.

The end of Putin’s military coup is not yet in sight and Russia is about to enter its toughest three months, with fears it will be bad news for those on the frontline and those at home.

‘Hopeless:’ Morale in Russia plummets

With no end date in sight, the uncertainty of the ongoing warfare has had a major impact on the morale of Russian citizens.

Speaking to CNN, a 34-year-old film producer described the mood in the Russian capital as “extremely gloomy, quiet, intimidated and hopeless”.

“The planning horizon is as low as ever. People have no idea what might happen tomorrow or a year from now,” she said.

Research by an independent polling organization in Moscow, the Levada Center also showed the moral implications of war for the normal Russian.

When asked if “people like them” were responsible for the “killing of civilians and destruction in Ukraine”, about a third of respondents answered ‘yes’. This represented an 8 percentage point increase in positive responses between April and May.

‘Trusted goods disappear’

Since the beginning of the war, Western countries and allies have attacked Russia’s domestic economy through imports, exports and sanctions.

Early in the war, Russian banks were excluded from the SWIFT system, disconnecting the organization from the international financial network. The effect sent the Russian ruble into a downward spiral and saw Russians rush to ATMs to withdraw cash.

However, the trend continued. According to Reuters, Russians seeking to flee the country saw 458 billion rubles ($A11.1 billion) withdrawn from banks in September after Putin announced a partial mobilization of troops.

Since then, dozens of brands have announced a pause in their Russian operations,

Then a whole series of brands ceased their activities in Russia, including brands such as McDonalds, confectionery company Mars, Sony and Lego.

Lisa told CNN that Western sanctions have caused everyday Western goods like Coca-Cola and clothing brands to disappear from stores or skyrocket in price.

“Trusted goods are disappearing, starting with toilet paper and Coca-Cola, ending with clothing,” says Lisa. “I don’t really know how this helps resolve the conflict because it affects ordinary people, not those who make decisions.”

Russian troops are also suffering

Russian soldiers fighting in Putin’s war in Ukraine will also suffer, according to a British Defense Ministry report. As temperatures plummet to zero, freezing rain can also turn roads into mud before the snow freezes the ground.

Daylight is also becoming a dwindling commodity, fading from the abundant 16 hours in the summer to just eight in the winter.

“Winter will bring a change in conflict conditions for both Russian and Ukrainian forces. Changes in daylight hours, temperature and weather will present unique challenges for fighting soldiers,” the ministry said.

“The weather itself is likely to see an increase in rainfall, wind speed and snowfall. Each of these will be an additional challenge to the already low morale of the Russian Armed Forces, as well as problems for the maintenance of the kits.

The season can also bring tactical disadvantages.

“In addition, the ‘golden hour’ window to rescue a seriously injured soldier is reduced by about half, greatly increasing the risk of contact with the enemy,” they tweeted.

“Night vision ability is a precious commodity, which further exacerbates the reluctance to fight at night.

Significant battlefield losses and the mobilization of 300,000 inexperienced conscript soldiers in October further eroded the army’s fighting strength and morale.

In a November report from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the think tank said desertion was also a concern among Russian soldiers.

“The morale and psychological state of the Russian armed forces in Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts are extremely low,” says ISW.

“Significant losses on the battlefield, mobilization to the front lines without proper training and poor supplies have led to cases of desertions.”

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