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    The Russian Army forms a volunteer brigade and conducts “covert mobilization”

    Russia’s formation of the 3rd Army Corps, intended to be a ‘hit squad’ in the fighting in Ukraine, appears to be expanding. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has indicated that a volunteer 72nd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade is being formed in Russia’s Orenburg Oblast to reinforce the corps.

    The American think tank, which publishes reports on the situation in Ukraine, this time draws attention to the formation of a new Brigade in Russia. The head of the Penza Oblast, Oleg Melnichenko, said recently that his region is sending 60 volunteers, and will direct another 60, to the military service at the 72nd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 3rd Army Corps which takes place in Totskoye in Orenburg Oblast. There has been no such brigade in the structure of Russia’s armed forces so far.


    Melnichenko’s statement confirms ISW’s earlier speculation that the 3rd Army Corps is at least partially being formed from volunteer battalions. It had already been announced that volunteer battalions, particularly from Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, would train in the Orenburg Oblast. According to ISW’s assessment, these battalions are perhaps being formed as a future part of the new brigades of the 3rd Army Corps.


    Russian forces are forming a new 72nd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade in Orenburg Oblast as part of the 3rd Army Corps. Penza Oblast Governor Oleg Melnichenko reported that Penza Oblast recruited 60 volunteers and will recruit an additional 60 recruits for unspecified volunteer units that will then undergo military service at the 72nd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 3rd Army Corps in Totskoye, Orenburg Oblast. There is no previously known 72nd Separate Motorized Rifle brigade in the Russian military’s order of battle. (


    At the same time, ISW notes, there are reports of another wave of covert mobilization in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. According to the Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR), both Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics are “forcefully mobilizing more men, including those deferred or unfit for service, to equip the mobilization reserves.”


    In mid-July, a U.S.-based think tank reported on an increase in the formation of volunteer battalions by individual Russian regions, with many of them being formed in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities. ISW experts have previously noted the prevalence of ethnically non-Russian battalions among the troops sent to Ukraine. They include soldiers from Chechnya, Tuva, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chuvashia and other ethnic minority enclaves in Russia. 


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