The UK Defence Ministry in its daily briefing notes that Russian General Valery Gerasimov following his appointment as commander of the Joint Group of Forces in Ukraine is addressing discipline issues in the army, the agency said via Twitter.
Since he assumed command on 11 January, attempts were already made to ban non-regulation uniforms, travel in civilian vehicles, the use of mobile phones and non-standard haircuts. The British intelligence notes that the “measures have been met with sceptical feedback”: the biggest wave of negativity coming from the ban on beards in the army.
The Donetsk people’s republic “authorities” slammed these priorities as “farce” which would “hamper the process of destroying the enemy”. Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin also chastised the military command, saying that “war is the time of the active and courageous, and not of the clean-shaven”.
The agency notes that Gerasimov is mostly paying attention to minor regulations at the backdrop of a prolonged operational deadlock and heavy losses in the Ukraine war, which can “confirm the fears of his many critics in Russia”. Gerasimov is increasingly seen as “out of touch and focused on presentation over substance”, much like Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu.
Last week, several so-called war correspondents reported that Russian service members are told to follow new rules: no non-military vehicles, beards and non-standard haircuts. Two members of the State Duma (lower house of parliament) defence committee backed the new demands.
Prigozhin and Chechnya head Ramzan Kadyrov spoke in support of beards. Prigozhin said he opposed the “glamourisation of the army”, while Kadyrov branded the demand to be clean-shaven as “a provocation meant to stifle morale of fighters”.