Russian general's focus on facial hair angers troops fighting in Ukraine

The discipline drive has been met with derision, according to British military intelligence

Russian reservists attend a ceremony before departure for military bases, in Sevastopol, Crimea, in September 2022. Reuters
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Russia’s new war general in Ukraine is “increasingly seen as out of touch” by troops due to a discipline drive that requires soldiers to be clean shaven, according to the UK's Ministry of Defence.

Gen Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s Chief of the General Staff and the newly-appointed commander in Ukraine, is seen as “focused on presentation over substance” amid operational deadlock, said the UK Ministry's daily intelligence update.

The new rules clamp down on non-regulation uniform, travel in civilian vehicles, the use of mobile phones, and non-standard haircuts, said the ministry.

“The measures have been met with sceptical feedback,” it tweeted.

“However, some of the greatest derision has been reserved for attempts to improve the standard of troops’ shaving.”

Officials in the occupied parts of the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine said it was a “farce” that would “hamper the process of destroying the enemy,” Britain's Ministry of Defence reported.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, who controls a network of companies including Wagner Group, a Russian state-backed mercenary group operating in Africa, Syria, and Ukraine, said war was the “time of the active and courageous, and not of the clean-shaven.”

A man wearing camouflage uniform walks out of PMC Wagner Centre, a project set up by the businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, in St Petersburg, Russia. Reuters

Britain's MoD said: “The Russian force continues to endure operational deadlock and heavy casualties; Gerasimov’s prioritisation of largely minor regulations is likely to confirm the fears of his many sceptics in Russia."

It added: “Along with Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, he is increasingly seen as out of touch and focused on presentation over substance.”

Russia is expected to launch a new offensive in the months ahead, prompting Ukraine’s western allies to step up support in recent days.

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Senior western diplomats met on Friday at a US military base in Ramstein, Germany, at the invitation of US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, to discuss new “heavier weapons” for Ukraine.

And on Monday Poland said it will officially ask Germany for permission to send its Leopard 2 tanks.

Ukraine is in desperate need of heavily armoured battle tanks to provide more mobility and protection for its troops on the ground before Russia stages the new offensive.

But because Leopards are made in Germany, the government in Berlin has the final say on how and where they are used — even if other countries are offering to send their own.

Mateusz Morawiecki said Poland was building a “coalition of nations” ready to send Leopards, and that even without German permission Warsaw would make its own decisions.

Updated: January 23, 2023, 4:53 PM
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