Thu. Sep 28th, 2023


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Desperate Putin ‘making avoiding conscription harder’ after huge losses

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Pro-Ukrianian Chechen soldiers attack Russian military

Russia is scrambling to change the rules of military conscription to offset “strategic and operative uncertainty” in Ukraine after huge personnel losses.

Vladimir Putin’s last three recruitment campaigns (April-July 2022, Nov-Dec 2022, April-July 2023) failed to replenish their dwindling military forces as the domestic population fled the country to avoid being called up and tens of thousands continue to die in Ukraine.

The Russian State Duma is seeking to “increase the maximum age of liability for conscription” from 27 to 30, as well as increase the age that senior officers can be mobilised to 70, to fix this issue and widen the pool of recruits.

Meanwhile, short-term contracts for young conscripted soldiers, sometimes without adequate military training for active combat, are being employed to incentivise participation in the “special military operation” and extensions are being made to the required “acting mobilisation reserve” to replenish a shortage of bottom-level commanders.

The British Ministry of Defence on Monday (July 31) said the array of changes, as well as the increased number of Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil, including Moscow, show the Kremlin is “failing to insulate the population from the war”.

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When Putin announced his “full-scale invasion” last February, he did not envisage a drawn-out war that would both leak into his own country and require hundreds of thousands of soldiers to maintain it.

His partial mobilisation last September proved hugely unpopular, leading to thousands of fighting age fleeing the country, and has left him unable to openly announce another drive.

And the remaining Russian population has become more impacted by the war as drone strikes hit the motherland, including the Kremlin in Moscow, and pro-Ukrianian rebels continue to attack Belgorod Oblast, neighbouring northeastern Ukraine – not to mention the catastrophic Wagner Munity last month.

This has forced the Kremlin war chiefs and their Russian President to subtly change the rules of conscription through its parliamentary wing, the State Duma, to quietly bolster their forces without scaring a population already growing more wary of the war.

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Pavel Luzin, a Russian political analyst and senior fellow at the Centre for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), told that the Kremlin is effectively “trying to expand their room for manoeuvre”.

He said the use of short term contracts for young conscripted soldiers in the war and contract extensions for the “acting mobilisation reserve”, as well as the changes to the age of conscription, are all part of a plot to “solve the problem of deficit” facing the Armed forces of Russia.

He added that such plans could prove so effective that they could overcorrect the problem and allow Putin to cancel the “partial mobilisation” decree by 2024; the mass exodus of thousands of Russians continue to show the unpopularity of that move.

If this fails, however, Mr Luzin said Putin may seek the alternative option of “proclaiming martial law and massive mobilisation”, though the repurcussions of effectively bullying a nervous population into submission in the wake of insurgency and the greatest threat to the President’s rule in two decades will be put off at all costs.

Whether or not these subtle changes to conscription law and recruitment drives prove to be the panacea Putin is after, these moves show that he has failed to “insulate the population from war”, according to the British MoD.

What was meant to be a fight away from Russia against supposed neo-Nazism, the ghosts of Adolf Hitler’s occupying forces during World War II, has now engulfed its population and threatened the autocratic regime that has stood for the entirety of this millennium.

And while Putin is suffering, the Russians that will pay the heaviest price will be its civilians, many of whom do not want to fight.

The latest intelligence from the US, endorsed by British defence minister Ben Wallace, suggests roughly 250,000 Russians have been killed or injured in Ukraine; while civilian Russians will not be aware of that figure, they will recognise that Putin’s latest moves will only mean that number will increase.

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