Record Covid cases in Russia and Ukraine complicate military plans | Ukraine - Quick Telecast Record Covid cases in Russia and Ukraine complicate military plans | Ukraine - Quick Telecast Record Covid cases in Russia and Ukraine complicate military plans | Ukraine - Quick Telecast

Record Covid cases in Russia and Ukraine complicate military plans | Ukraine

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The Omicron variant is causing record numbers of new Covid infections in Russia and Ukraine, threatening to impact military calculations over Russia’s continued troop buildup.

Analysts have cited various factors as possible contributors to whether and how Russia will launch an assault on Ukraine, ranging from Vladimir Putin’s psychological state to the strength of the western response and even the firmness of the ground during a mild winter in the region.

Covid is emerging as another element that may complicate plans for the Russian and Ukrainian armies, as record case numbers in both societies are replicated among the troops.

Gen Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of the Ukrainian land forces, told the Guardian that from about 150,000 soldiers in his ranks, 2,400 were infected by Covid.

Testing was taking place only before special events or in the case of symptoms, he said, suggesting the real number might be much higher. Ukrainian military bases have been closed to visitors to help prevent the spread.

“It’s not dramatically affecting our plans, because few people are getting seriously ill, but of course we are having to ensure isolation of cases and also to be more careful with mask-wearing and other anti-Covid measures,” he said, in an interview at the Boryspil military airfield on Thursday.

Ukrainian officials believe Covid has swept through the Russian soldiers placed close to the border and participating in exercises in neighbouring Belarus.

Ukraine’s ministry of health said on Friday morning that 43,778 new infections had been registered in the past day, the highest total since the pandemic began. It was an increase of more than 4,000 on the previous day, which also set a record.

The Omicron variant has also hit hard in Russia, where an all-time high for new cases was also reported on Friday, with 168,201 new infections in the past 24 hours.

Both the Russian and Ukrainian armies have much higher rates of vaccination than among their respective general populations, where vaccine scepticism is widespread. In both countries, less than half of the population has been fully vaccinated. The Moscow Times calculated recently that Russia has had nearly a million excess fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic.

Syrskyi said 99.3% of the Ukrainian army had received two doses of a vaccine, and that booster shots were being rolled out. As of November, 95% of Russia’s army personnel has been vaccinated and 25% received boosters, according to the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu.

“Lethality of Covid is 45 times lower among army personnel than in the population at large,” Shoigu claimed in a meeting with Putin.

Still, the sheer number of current infections means large numbers of troops will be taken out of action for days at a time as Putin continues to keep the world guessing about his intentions.

British and US officials have said a major Russian military assault may be “imminent”, and on Thursday, US intelligence claimed to have information that the Russians were preparing a staged video of an atrocity to act as a pretext to intervene.

Syrskyi said Ukrainian forces were ready for anything, but echoed other Ukrainian officials in dismissing the idea that a major military assault was imminent, instead saying the Kremlin goal seemed to be to exert psychological pressure and create panic in Ukrainian society.

“We see training, we see movement, but we don’t see direct attack preparations or the preparation of strike forces,” he said.

He added that basic military doctrine suggested the Russians would need three times as many attack forces as Ukraine had defensive troops in order to launch an attack, and said Russia currently did not have this on any section of the Ukrainian border.

“We would also expect to see logistics bases, field hospitals. This is all visible from space, we will know if and when it starts to happen,” he said.

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The Omicron variant is causing record numbers of new Covid infections in Russia and Ukraine, threatening to impact military calculations over Russia’s continued troop buildup.

Analysts have cited various factors as possible contributors to whether and how Russia will launch an assault on Ukraine, ranging from Vladimir Putin’s psychological state to the strength of the western response and even the firmness of the ground during a mild winter in the region.

Covid is emerging as another element that may complicate plans for the Russian and Ukrainian armies, as record case numbers in both societies are replicated among the troops.

Gen Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of the Ukrainian land forces, told the Guardian that from about 150,000 soldiers in his ranks, 2,400 were infected by Covid.

Testing was taking place only before special events or in the case of symptoms, he said, suggesting the real number might be much higher. Ukrainian military bases have been closed to visitors to help prevent the spread.

“It’s not dramatically affecting our plans, because few people are getting seriously ill, but of course we are having to ensure isolation of cases and also to be more careful with mask-wearing and other anti-Covid measures,” he said, in an interview at the Boryspil military airfield on Thursday.

Ukrainian officials believe Covid has swept through the Russian soldiers placed close to the border and participating in exercises in neighbouring Belarus.

Ukraine’s ministry of health said on Friday morning that 43,778 new infections had been registered in the past day, the highest total since the pandemic began. It was an increase of more than 4,000 on the previous day, which also set a record.

The Omicron variant has also hit hard in Russia, where an all-time high for new cases was also reported on Friday, with 168,201 new infections in the past 24 hours.

Both the Russian and Ukrainian armies have much higher rates of vaccination than among their respective general populations, where vaccine scepticism is widespread. In both countries, less than half of the population has been fully vaccinated. The Moscow Times calculated recently that Russia has had nearly a million excess fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic.

Syrskyi said 99.3% of the Ukrainian army had received two doses of a vaccine, and that booster shots were being rolled out. As of November, 95% of Russia’s army personnel has been vaccinated and 25% received boosters, according to the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu.

“Lethality of Covid is 45 times lower among army personnel than in the population at large,” Shoigu claimed in a meeting with Putin.

Still, the sheer number of current infections means large numbers of troops will be taken out of action for days at a time as Putin continues to keep the world guessing about his intentions.

British and US officials have said a major Russian military assault may be “imminent”, and on Thursday, US intelligence claimed to have information that the Russians were preparing a staged video of an atrocity to act as a pretext to intervene.

Syrskyi said Ukrainian forces were ready for anything, but echoed other Ukrainian officials in dismissing the idea that a major military assault was imminent, instead saying the Kremlin goal seemed to be to exert psychological pressure and create panic in Ukrainian society.

“We see training, we see movement, but we don’t see direct attack preparations or the preparation of strike forces,” he said.

He added that basic military doctrine suggested the Russians would need three times as many attack forces as Ukraine had defensive troops in order to launch an attack, and said Russia currently did not have this on any section of the Ukrainian border.

“We would also expect to see logistics bases, field hospitals. This is all visible from space, we will know if and when it starts to happen,” he said.

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