GlobalPutin orders Russian army to add 170,000 soldiers for a total of...

Putin orders Russian army to add 170,000 soldiers for a total of 1.32 million

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday ordered his army to increase troop numbers by nearly 170,000 for a total of 1.32 million, as Moscow’s military actions in Ukraine extend into their 22nd month.

Putin’s decree was published by the Kremlin on Friday and took effect immediately. This brings the total number of Russian military personnel to approximately 2.2 million, including 1.32 million soldiers.

It is the second such expansion in the army since 2018. The previous increase of 137,000 soldiers, ordered by Putin in August 2022, put the army’s numbers at around 2 million elements and approximately 1.15 million soldiers.

The Defense Ministry said the order does not imply any “significant expansion of recruitment,” and announced in a statement that the increase would occur gradually through the recruitment of more volunteers. The ministry cited what it called “the special military operation” in Ukraine and NATO expansion as reasons to strengthen the army.

NATO’s joint armed forces are being reinforced near Russia’s borders, and additional air defense systems and strike weapons are being deployed. “The potential of NATO’s tactical nuclear forces is increasing,” the statement reads.

The increase in Russian troops is an appropriate response to “the aggressive activities of the NATO bloc,” the ministry said.

Last December, Sergei Shoigu, Russian Defense Minister, declared that the country needed a force of 1.5 million for “the fulfillment of tasks aimed at ensuring the security of Russia.” He did not say when the army would reach that size.

The Kremlin previously considered the size of its army sufficient, but the calculus changed after hopes of a quick victory over its neighbor were shattered by Ukrainian resistance.

Amid continuing hostilities, Russia and Ukraine have kept their military casualties strictly secret. The Russian military has confirmed only just over 6,000 military casualties, but the West had much higher estimates. In October, Britain’s Ministry of Defense tweeted in a regular update that Russia “has probably suffered between 150,000 and 190,000 permanent casualties,” a figure that included dead and wounded troops.

Russian authorities have made various efforts to give a boost to their army.

In August 2022, Putin ordered an increase in the size of the Russian army to 1.15 million effective January 1, 2023. The following month, he ordered the mobilization of 300,000 reservists to reinforce his forces in Ukraine. That number is counted as part of the current military strength.

While Putin said there was no need to recruit more, his mobilization decree is indefinite, allowing the military to call up additional reservists when needed. That decree also prohibited volunteer soldiers from terminating their contracts.

Regional authorities have tried to help bolster the ranks with volunteer battalions to be deployed to Ukraine. A campaign to attract more men to enlist has been underway for months across Russia, with ads promising cash bonuses, recruiters making calls to eligible men and enlistment offices working with universities and social service agencies to attract students and unemployed.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said Friday that more than 452,000 men have enlisted in the military as contract soldiers this year.

Some media outlets and human rights groups say Russian authorities are also offering amnesty to prisoners in exchange for a period of military service.

These efforts are in addition to the regular draft, which calls up between 120,000 and 140,000 men twice a year for a year of mandatory service. The authorities insist that those recruited for compulsory service are not sent to Ukraine.

All Russian men between 18 and 27 must serve a year in the army, but a large number avoid conscription for health reasons or deferments granted to university students. The proportion of men avoiding conscription is particularly large in Moscow and other major cities. This year, authorities raised the age limit for compulsory service to 30 years from January 1.

The Russian military conducts conscriptions twice a year, beginning on April 1 and October 1. This year, Putin ordered the recruitment of 130,000 conscripts during the fall and 147,000 in the spring.

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