Putin expands military draft, risking social tensions in Russia
Russia is expanding the scope of a nationwide military draft to conscript men between the ages of 18 and 27 amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
The move is likely to trigger social unrest inside Russia, according to U.S. analysts, who note public pushback to a previous enlistment call by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2022. The Kremlin has tried to minimize the domestic impact of what it calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine, which has gone on far longer and been far bloodier that Russian leaders had anticipated.
Russian officials said this week that new draftees will not immediately be sent to the front lines in Ukraine.
Mr. Putin signed a decree Thursday ordering the country’s defense ministry to enlist a fresh 147,000 men for compulsory military service.
The Moscow Times reported that the order represents an increase of more than 12,000 conscripts compared to the Kremlin’s draft numbers during springtime 2022. The paper cited reports that Russian enlistment officers will also crack down on draft dodgers.
The Kyiv Independent news website reported that Russia conducts two conscription cycles per year, with the spring conscription cycle having a target of 134,000 recruits.
It is unclear when or whether the Kremlin will deploy new conscripts from the upcoming draft push, which is slated to begin Saturday and carry on through mid-July.
Russia’s General Staff said Friday that none of the new conscripts would be sent to the Ukrainian front lines, according to The Moscow Times, which noted the biannual draft allows conscripts to be sent to fight abroad after just four months of military training.
The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, circulated a report Thursday asserting that Mr. Putin’s “use of conscripts during the winter-spring period of 2022 sparked social tensions in Russia.” Thousands of draft-age Russian men at the time fled to neighboring countries to avoid being part of the call-up.
As a result, the ISW said, the Russian president is “unlikely to risk his regime’s stability by deploying newly conscripted servicemen to the front lines.”
“The new conscripts will not increase Russian combat power in the short term, as Russian conscripts must undergo months of training and service before they see combat,” the think tank said, adding that Russia may rely on neighboring Belarus to train the new draftees.