Analysts say new battalions are forming, some of which consist of troops aged in their 50s and 60s, after the Kremlin’s call for volunteers
By James Kilner 14 July 2022 •
All 85 federal areas in Russia have been tasked with recruiting a volunteer regiment of 400 men CREDIT: Alexandr Kulikov/AP
The Kremlin has ordered a “volunteer mobilisation” of up to 34,000 soldiers by the end of next month to patch up its battered forces in Ukraine, analysts have said.
The recruitment drive is part of a push to shift Russians on to a war footing without declaring full mobilisation, a move that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has decided is politically too risky.
Mr Putin on Thursday also signed into law a parliamentary bill that tightens rules for Russians working as “foreign agents”, mainly journalists and people who are linked to Western NGOs or take funding from the West. They are watched closely and their activities, access and travel are restricted.
There are 85 federal areas in Russia, including Crimea and Sevastopol, which were annexed from Ukraine in 2014,and each one has been tasked with recruiting a volunteer battalion of 400 men, the Washington-based think tank Institute for the Study of War reported.
“Newly formed battalions are currently departing to training grounds and will likely complete their month-long training by the end of August,” it said.
Some of these units were made up of former soldiers now in their 50s and 60s. Russian state TV showed a unit of grey-haired men wearing combat fatigues and helmets practising their rifle shooting.
Russia has suffered at least 20,000 casualties in nearly five months of tough fighting in Ukraine, more than the Soviet Union suffered in 10 years of war in Afghanistan in the Eighties.
A disproportionate number of the casualties have been from ethnic minorities living on the fringe of Russia. Analysts have said that the Kremlin’s callous calculation is that grieving widows and parents are less dangerous in remote regions than in Moscow and St Petersburg.
But the Russian recruitment drive is also running into problems.
Russian opposition media has reported that 150 men from Buryatia in Far East Russia on the border with Mongolia refused to deploy after they were sent to the rebel-controlled part of Donbas. This followed other alleged mutinies by Russian National Guards units from the North Caucasus.
As the Kremlin has not declared war, it is far harder for officials to force men to fight in Ukraine.