Defense chief: Russian mobilization refugees pose security threat

Colonel Margo Grosberg
Colonel Margo Grosberg Source: Aleksander Krjukov/ERR

Colonel Margo Grosberg, commander of the Estonian Defense Forces' intelligence center, told ERR that Russian citizens fleeing to the West to avoid mobilization definitely pose a security threat, as there may be Russian security services personal among them. Grosberg also said, that Russia's possible use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine would not pose a direct threat to Estonia.

"This is definitely a situation, which I am more than convinced the security services of the Russian Federation will take advantage of, perhaps to enable their agents to move into Europe a little more freely. There is definitely a threat," Grosberg said.

As for suggestions that Russia may employ tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Grosberg said, it was difficult to assess the likelihood of that happening.

"All I can say is that the probability, however small that may be, does exist, given the fact that they have these means. Whether they will or won't use them, is extremely difficult to assess," Grosberg said.

"The use of these weapons would have an impact all over the world. Maybe not militarily, or in terms of the impact from the blast or radiation, but more in a strategic and political sense, Grosberg said.

"I'm not sure that the Russian Federation today is prepared to do that. The consequences would be something else," he added.

According to Grosberg, the use of a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine would not pose a direct threat to Estonia.

"There is certainly no direct military threat to our country, our people, or our security. However, the impact on the whole world, if they did, would be huge. It would take this war to a whole new level," Grosberg said.

Grosberg added, that the purpose of a tactical nuclear weapon is to attack large stationary targets, such as areas with a large concentration of troops, or to destroy command and control points or storage facilities.

Grosberg: Mobilization likely to reach 350,000

Grosberg said, that while Russia's 'partial mobilization' effort is still likely to result in the drafting of as many as 350,000 additional troops, the process is clearly not going as smoothly as Russia would like.

"It is likely that, one way or another, taking into account both the population size  and the number of conscripts available, 350,000 mobilizations will be reached. We predict that they will have no problem regarding that. However, it is always a question of their training and education and therefore the quality with which they will be able to perform various tasks, whether in the Russian Federation itself or in Ukraine," Grosberg said.

Grosberg said, that so far, the Defense Forces have not identified a singular approach to the deployment of mobilized personnel.

"There are indications to the effect, that, some (mobilized troops) are sent to the border, essentially without any training. The first to be mobilized were killed and captured on the Ukrainian front line on their third day of service. However, there is also information about more extensive training being carried out," he said.

"It is likely that the first wave (of mobilized troops) will be fast-tracked to the Ukrainian border, either with no training at all or after a very short training period. The main aim being to prevent further losses and offer resistance to Ukrainian attacks. The second phase will come after two to four weeks of training, specifically to replenish existing units and compensate for the losses suffered. The third wave will be longer, and will involve a few months of training, in order (for troops) to be prepared for the next phase of the campaign in the winter or next spring," Grosberg said.

Replenishment of units on Estonia's borders has begun

Grosberg also said that, the replenishment of units permanently stationed in sections of the Russian border close to Estonia, was already underway. The colonel explained, that the reservists will most likely be deployed in peacetime roles first, undergo varying degrees of training, and then eventually be sent to Ukraine, where they will be filtered into existing units to replace the soldiers already lost in combat.

"The 138th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade, based in Kamenka on the other side of the Gulf of Finland, will be replenished. As will the 25th Motor Rifle Brigade, which is permanently stationed in Luga, as well as the 9th Artillery Brigade and the 76th Guards Mountain Air Assault Division, which are also permanently stationed in Luga. All these units have been actively engaged in combat operations in Ukraine, and so this step is probably intended to compensate for their losses on the battlefield, meaning it is likely that they will also be sent to Ukraine as reinforcements," Grosberg said.

"There is currently no reason to replenish the units behind the border, because most of the leading personnel from these units are now in Ukraine. There is no one who would be able conduct the level of training that would make it worth keeping them here. Rather, the whole (mobilization) effort is to compensate for existing losses," he explained.

"We are unlikely to see a dramatic change in tactical operations as a result of deploying those who have been mobilized any sooner than within one to two months (from now). It will require training and better cooperation, so until then it will be more of a stop-gap move to avoid losing more territory," Grosberg said.

Heaviest fighting in Kharkiv region

Grosberg went on to discuss developments on the ground in Ukraine, saying that the regions where most of the fighting is currently taking place can be divided into three categories.

Speaking first about Kherson, Grosberg said there had been no major changes to the situation.

"Rather, the forces have become more balanced, no breakthroughs have been made. Russian units containing Wagner troops have similarly been unable to make breakthroughs in the Donetsk region. The only area where there is very heavy fighting is in the Kharkiv region," Grosberg said, adding that   the Ukrainians are continuing to progress, slowly but surely in Kharkiv Oblast. "The liberation of villages and areas is certainly not comparable in speed to how it was at the beginning of this offensive. But in essence, the eastern bank of the Oskil River has been, more or less recaptured, river crossings have been established in a very large number of locations and bridgeheads are being enlarged," he said.

"Russian units have been pushed out from the strategically important town of Kupiansk, with counter-attacks been carried out successfully," Grosberg said.

"At the moment, the main settlement around which fighting is taking place is Lyman, which is operationally and tactically important in order to reduce the pressure on Sloviansk , Kramatorsk and the Donetsk region in general. As far as we are aware, the settlement is currently surrounded (by Ukrainian troops) on three sides, and in the coming days it is very likely that either Russian will leave the settlement or Ukrainian units will be able to completely surround it. From there on, especially from the Lyman side, attacks are likely to continue in the direction of Rubizhne, Severodonetsk and Lysychans'k," Grosberg explained.

According to Grosberg, the next target for the Ukrainians is most likely to be the town of Svatove, which is essentially the last point on a very important supply route between the Russian city of Belgorod and frontline settlements in both the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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