Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s hopes to bolster the nation’s army are unlikely to boost its overall combat power in Ukraine, according to the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The MoD said in a Sunday, August 28 update that it was uncertain whether a recent presidential decree to increase the strength of the Russian armed forces would effectively increase the power of its army.
Its update read: “It remains unclear whether Russia will attempt to fill this increased allocation from recruiting more volunteer ‘contract’ soldiers, or from increasing the annual targets for the conscription draft.
“In any case, under the legislation currently in place, the decree is unlikely to make substantive progress towards increasing Russia’s combat power in Ukraine.
“This is because Russia has lost tens of thousands of troops, very few new contract servicemen are being recruited and conscripts are technically not obliged to serve outside of Russian territory.”
On August 25, Putin issued a decree to increase the established strength of the Russian armed forces to 1,150,628, an increase of nearly 140,000. The MoD said the government “was instructed to provide funding to achieve this.”
Local media in Ukraine and Russia has reported that Russians have been promised a monthly salary of 200,000 rubles ($3,400) – about three times the average salary in the country – in order to bolster recruitment efforts.
Putin’s order reflects is an indication the war has had a devastating toll on the Russian army six months after the Kremlin ordered its forces further into Ukrainian territory.
The decree stopped short of a full mobilization that would allow a national draft, effectively allowing the army to draw from a wider pool.
But the reported loss of tens of thousands of troops means many Russian soldiers may have refused to fight, leading to reports of covert tactics being used to bring in new recruits.
According to the New York Times, analysts have described the effort to recruit more Russian men to replenish units fighting in Ukraine as a “stealth mobilization.”
Russia has so far made use of mercenaries, most notably the Wagner Group, in its operations in Ukraine, according to the MoD.
The ministry previously said: “Wagner are lowering recruitment standards, hiring convicts and formerly blacklisted individuals. Very limited training is made available to new recruits.”
Russia has not announced how many of its troops have been killed in Ukraine since late March. The figure then was 1,351.
Ukraine gives regular updates with the estimate on Monday being around 45,000. This figure is higher than the estimate made by American analysts.
In July, CIA director William Burns estimated that 15,000 Russians had been killed since the war began, according to Reuters.
He told the news agency: “The Ukrainians have suffered as well, probably a little less than that. But, you know, significant casualties.”
Newsweek has contacted the Kremlin and the MoD for comment.