Moscow (AFP) – Russian President Russian President Vladimir Putin On Friday, Russia ordered the army to increase the number of its forces by about 170,000 soldiers to a total of 1.32 million, as Moscow’s military action in Ukraine continues in its twenty-second month.
The Kremlin issued Putin’s decree on Friday and it took effect immediately. This brings the total number of Russian military personnel to about 2.2 million, including 1.32 million soldiers.
This is the second such expansion of the army since 2018. The previous reinforcement of 137,000 soldiers, ordered by Putin in August 2022, estimated the army’s numbers at about 2 million personnel and about 1.15 million soldiers.
The Ministry of Defense said that the order did not mean any “significant expansion of compulsory conscription,” saying in a statement that the increase would occur gradually through the recruitment of more volunteers. The ministry cited what it called a “special military operation” in Ukraine and NATO expansion as reasons to bolster the military.
“NATO’s joint armed forces are being built near Russia’s borders and additional air defense systems and offensive weapons are being deployed. The potential of NATO’s tactical nuclear forces is increasing,” the statement read.
The ministry said the Russian troop buildup is an appropriate response to NATO’s “aggressive activities.”
Last December, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that the country needed a force of 1.5 million soldiers “to ensure the completion of the tasks necessary to ensure Russia’s security.” He did not say when the army would reach this size.
The Kremlin previously considered the size of its army sufficient, but calculations changed after hopes of achieving a quick victory over its neighbor were dashed by fierce Ukrainian resistance.
Amid ongoing hostilities, both Russia and Ukraine have maintained a tight shroud of secrecy over their military losses. The Russian military confirmed just over 6,000 soldiers fell, but the West has much higher estimates. In October, the British Ministry of Defense tweeted in a regular update that Russia had “likely suffered between 150,000 and 190,000 permanent casualties,” a figure that includes troops killed or permanently wounded.
Russian authorities made various efforts to strengthen the army.
In August 2022, Putin ordered the size of the Russian army to increase to 1.15 million as of January 1, 2023. The following month, he ordered the mobilization of 300,000 reservists to reinforce his forces in Ukraine. This number is calculated as part of the current military strength.
While Putin has said there is no need to mobilize more soldiers, his mobilization decree is open-ended, allowing the military to call up additional reserve soldiers when needed. This decree also prevented volunteer soldiers from terminating their contracts.
The regional authorities tried to help strengthen their ranks by forming volunteer battalions to be deployed in Ukraine. Across Russia’s vast territory, a campaign to entice more men to enlist has been underway for months. Advertisements promise cash rewards, recruiters make cold calls to qualified men, and recruitment offices work with universities and social service agencies to attract students and the unemployed.
Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, announced on Friday that more than 452,000 men have joined the army as contract soldiers this year.
Some media reports and rights groups say Russian authorities are also offering amnesty to prisoners in exchange for military service.
These efforts come on top of regular conscription, which calls up about 120,000 to 140,000 men twice a year for one year of compulsory service. The authorities insist that conscripts for compulsory service will not be deployed to Ukraine.
All Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 must serve one year in the army, but a large proportion of them avoid the draft for health reasons or deferrals given to university students. The proportion of men avoiding conscription is particularly large in Moscow and other major cities. This year, the authorities raised the maximum age for compulsory service to 30 years, starting January 1.
The Russian Army assembles conscripts twice a year, starting on April 1 and October 1. Putin ordered the recruitment of 130,000 conscripts during the fall earlier this year, and 147,000 in the spring.
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