Russia Seeks 400,000 More Recruits As Latest Ukraine Push Stalls: Report

Russia seeks 400,000 more recruits as latest push in Ukraine stalls: report

Putin last year approved a plan to increase Russia’s military to 1.5 million

The Kremlin has rolled back plans for another offensive in Ukraine this spring after not gaining much ground and will focus on repelling a fresh push by Kiev forces that is expected to begin soon.

The Kremlin, poised for a long struggle, is looking to enlist up to 400,000 contract soldiers this year to fill out its ranks, according to people familiar with the plan, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters not public are.

The ambitious recruitment campaign would allow the Kremlin to avoid another forced mobilization of reservists as it ramps up the campaign to win President Vladimir Putin’s re-election later this year, people said. Last fall’s conscription shook public confidence and prompted an exodus of up to a million Russians from the country.

Despite the battlefield and political challenges, Putin has signaled he is confident Russia will outlast Ukrainian backers in the US and Europe, betting that if his forces can prevent another breakthrough by Ukrainian troops in the coming months who do support for Kiev will weaken.

While many in the government and Kremlin elite question whether Russia can ever prevail, hard-line security officials are committed to fighting what they see as existential and have Putin’s ear, people said.

Defying efforts by Washington and his allies to isolate him, Putin this month gained strong public support from China’s President Xi Jinping, who vowed to deepen ties during a visit to Moscow. Secretly, despite the lack of announced deals, Kremlin officials were upbeat about the visit, saying Xi’s high-profile endorsement was an important sign of support.

Read  Globe editorial: How to stop China from owning the green energy future? Dig, Canada, dig

China has not publicly pledged to provide lethal aid, though Russia’s forces have struggled to advance amid fierce Ukrainian resistance. Almost all of the 300,000 troops mobilized in the fall are now on the battlefield, according to Ukrainian and Western officials, but Russia has failed to capture any major cities in recent months.

Ukraine, meanwhile, plans to launch a major counteroffensive in the coming months, using troops fresh from training in Europe and the US, and deploying newly delivered tanks, armored vehicles and other weapons. According to US officials, Kiev could try to breach Russian lines and sever the occupied territory’s land bridge that now connects Crimea to mainland Russia.

To fill and expand its ranks, Russia has already begun recruiting contract soldiers to serve for up to several years on pay. Regional officials have been given quotas for recruitment and are inviting potential volunteers to come to drafting committees, where they will be asked to sign up, according to people familiar with the effort. Initially, authorities are targeting veterans and rural residents, they said.

However, some officials said the target of attracting 400,000 contract soldiers this year is likely unrealistic. This roughly corresponds to the total number of professional troops Russia had before the invasion began on February 24, 2022.

“In the current circumstances, I don’t think they will entice people to join, except maybe for the die-hard patriots or people who don’t have the economic opportunity,” said Dara Massicot, a senior policy researcher at RAND Corp. and former Russian military capabilities analyst at the US Department of Defense. “I don’t see it being possible for them to make another big push into Ukraine unless they move towards a war economy and martial law.”

Read  Why are Russia and Belarus banned from international sport?

The Kremlin is not ready for that, especially ahead of next spring’s elections, in which Putin is expected to seek a fifth term, according to people familiar with the situation. While the Kremlin has a tight grip on the political system, officials fear moves like a mobilization that would bring the war home to millions of Russians could complicate their efforts to win a resounding election.

The number of new volunteer recruits this year has fallen short of levels in previous years, said independent Russian military analyst Pavel Luzin, who is a visiting scholar at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in December Russia would increase the number of contract soldiers to 521,000 by the end of 2023, up from 405,000 before the invasion. These troops typically serve for three years and require a steady influx of new recruits to fill out the ranks, even without the combat casualties seen in Ukraine.

Putin late last year approved a plan to increase Russia’s military to 1.5 million from the current 1.15 million, a plan expected to last until 2026.

Shoigu said last September that Russia has 25 million reservists, although it initially called up just over 1% of them.

“They’re running out of armored assets, but they think they have this huge manpower pool,” RAND’s Massicot said.

Ukrainian officials see limits to Russia’s ability to sustain combat as weapon stockpiles are depleted and sanctions limit the ability to replace them.

“You can wage this war until 2023 – at most until the end of 2024,” Vadym Skibitskyi, deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence service, said in an interview with RBC-Ukraine published on Thursday.

Read  Latest On D-Backs' Rotation - MLB Trade Rumors

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published by a syndicated feed.)


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button