Kirby also warned that Russia will likely receive more shipments of drones from Iran, and that Moscow may seek to acquire “advanced conventional weapons, such as surface-to-surface missiles,” confirming a weekend report by The Washington Post.
The comments come hours after Kirby shared his advice to fighting-age men in Russia, urging them to “not fight” in Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
“They should not fight, not agree to fight in Ukraine. And many of them have obviously left the country and some of the others are bravely resisting efforts to be mobilized and to be called up inside their own country,” Kirby said on CNN.
Putin has ramped up efforts to escalate the war in recent days, and on Wednesday he declared martial law in four regions of Ukraine that Moscow illegally annexed. Kirby said the new security measures from Putin show that he “has dwindling options available to him” and that there is “increasing popular discontent” about the war and the way he’s fighting it.
While Putin’s invasion of Ukraine remains popular in Russia, hundreds of thousands of citizens fled the country after the Russian president announced on Sept. 21 plans to draft at least 300,000 additional soldiers. Other people hoping to avoid the draft are hunkering down and avoiding public places as they hear of widespread reports of forced conscriptions, even for men who are above the age limit for mobilization.
Kirby said on Thursday that Russia is putting mobilized reservists who have just been called up into the fight “with maybe a week’s worth of training and some small arms and ammunition and that is it.”
“They are being thrown into a fight against an enemy, though smaller, is much better equipped, much higher morale, better leadership, better command and control. And it’s not a place where a lot of Russian soldiers want to be right now,” Kirby said.