Russian lawmakers voted on Tuesday to raise the military draft age, aiming to expand the pool of trained conscripts who might join the fight in Ukraine.
the Measures, if approved by the full parliament, would apply to the year of military service required of all Russian men. Starting next year, those between the ages of 18 and 30 will be required to serve; Currently, their ages range from 18 to 27 years old. The bill also prohibits men who have been drafted from leaving the country, in an effort to reduce draft evasion.
The measure reflects the Kremlin’s desire to strengthen the army without resorting to general mobilization, as Russian men who have served in the army – up to 70 years in the highest ranks – can be called up. President Vladimir Putin has carefully tried to avoid a larger mobilization in order to maintain support for the war, but there is still a possibility in case other measures fail to provide sufficient force.
The legislation, along with a number of other measures approved by Russian lawmakers this year, make clear the Kremlin’s intent to bolster the military for what it describes as an existential struggle with the West.
Although Russian men are required to serve a year in the army, many find ways to avoid this, including for medical reasons, for education, or by traveling abroad. Last September, with war raging in the country, demonstrators took to the streets across Russia after announcing a “partial mobilization” aimed at putting 300,000 men into service. Many other men fled the country.
For the most part, Russia has repelled Ukraine’s attempts to break through its lines, but the fighting on Ukrainian soil has been slow and bloody. The vote by the lower house of parliament on Tuesday to expand the pool of conscripts is the latest sign that Mr. Putin, facing heavy losses on the battlefield, is preparing for a prolonged war.
While the Russian president has promised not to send conscripts serving for a year to Ukraine, they are deployed to regions on its borders and represent trained recruits who can be called upon to sign contracts and be sent into battle.
It is not clear how long it will be before the effects of the new measures aimed at strengthening the army begin to appear.
“Obviously not before the fall recruitment campaign — that is, in fact, not before winter,” said Dmitry Kuznets, who analyzes the war for the independent Russian news site Meduza. “This is preparation for the Army’s planned expansion in the future.”
The bill still needs to be approved by the upper house of parliament, the Russian Federation Council, whose president has already promised to support it. Then he goes to be signed by Mr. Putin.
When the age plan for recruitment announced for the first time Defense Minister Shoigu at the end of last year, along with an effort to expand the Russian army to 1.5 million soldiers from about 1.15 million, called for raising the draft age, making the range from 21 to 30. But last week, lawmakers made it 18 to 30.
Andrei Kartapolov, a Russian deputy and main supporter of the bill, told the Russian news agency Interfax that the change was made because the “demographic situation is serious” in Russia, which affects the “volume of mobilization resources” in the country.
Last week, parliament also extended the maximum age at which men can be part of the army’s general mobilization by five years, and raised the age for the highest-ranking officers in the reserves to 70. Previous changes to Russian legislation also made it harder for potential recruits to dodge general mobilization or conscription.
The Russian Defense Ministry has also moved aggressively to recruit new volunteers to fight in Ukraine. On July 4, Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president and now a high-ranking security official, He said More than 185,000 recruits have joined the Russian army since the beginning of this year.
It all sounds like part of a larger strategy, said Kuznets, the war analyst.
“I think that increasing the unit draft, trying to recruit tens of thousands of contract soldiers, and preparing for a new wave of mobilization complement each other,” he said. “This is an attempt to implement a plan for a protracted war of attrition, for the sake of which you need to replenish your resources faster than the enemy.”
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