Russian Morale Falling in Face of HIMARS, Efficient Air Strikes: Pentagon

The morale of Russian troops in Ukraine is deteriorating as a result of attacks from Ukrainian HIMARS and warplanes, according to a senior U.S. military official.

This assessment was made during the latest Pentagon briefing on the situation in Ukraine on Monday, held by a "senior defense official" and a "senior military official", neither of whom were identified.

The military official said the U.S. has received "a good number of reports talking about the morale of the Russian soldier" around Kherson, which he described as "miserable".

Gunfire was heard in Ukraine's Russian-occupied city of Kherson amid a reported counteroffensive to recapture Moscow-controlled territory in the south of the country.

Kyiv's forces have been using U.S.-supplied HIMARS, a type of multiple rocket launcher developed in the late 1990s, to strike behind Russian lines.

Russian moral in Ukraine falling after strikes
Soldiers of the Chechen Special Purpose Police Regiment attend the opening ceremony of the All-Russian shooting competition "Forever Alive" in Saint Petersburg on August, 25, 2022. The moral of Russian troops in Ukraine is falling due to strikes from HIMARS and warplanes according to the U.S. Department of Defense. OLEG MALTSEVA / AFP)/GETTY

The official said: "Imagine you're a Russian soldier...You've been getting hit pretty hard by artillery and HIMARS."

They added the Ukrainian air force is becoming "more and more efficient and effective", causing further problems for the Russian side on top of "already bad morale and bad troop numbers".

Last week, President Vladimir Putin announced the Russian military will be increased by another 137,000 personnel, bringing its total on-paper strength to 1.15 million.

However, the senior defense official doubted the plan will significantly strengthen Russian forces in Ukraine.

Speaking at the DoD briefing, they said: "This effort is unlikely to succeed, as Russia has historically not met personnel and strength targets.

"In fact, if you look at the Russian armed forces, prior to the invasion, they may have already been 150,000 personnel short of their million personnel goal."

The official claimed Russia has been reducing recruit requirements in a bid to increase enlistment numbers, resulting in lower quality troops.

They explained: "They've done this in part by eliminating the upper age limit for new recruits and also by recruiting of prisoners.

"Many of these new recruits have been observed as older, unfit and ill-trained."

That suggested that "any additional personnel that Russia actually can muster by the end of the year, in fact, may not increase overall Russian combat power".

Colin Kahl, the Department of Defense undersecretary for policy, estimated this month that Russia had suffered up to 80,000 soldiers killed or wounded since the start of the invasion on February 24.

Over the past month Ukraine has been using HIMARS to strike bridges across the Dnieper River, partially separating Kherson on the north bank from the main area of Russian control to the south.

The military official said Ukraine has successfully built up its forces around Kherson, which "are in much better number in terms of equality or parity in the south than they were initially up along the eastern portion of the battlespace".

On Monday night Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to "liberate" all parts of Ukraine under Russian control, including Crimea and parts of the Donbas region which Putin seized in 2014.

He commented: "This war, which began with Russia's occupation of our Crimea, with an attempt to seize Donbas, must end precisely there—in the liberated Crimea, in the liberated cities of Donbas, with our troops reaching the state border of Ukraine.

"We have always kept this goal in mind. We do not forget about it."

The Department of Defense has been contacted for comment.