The leaked documents obtained by The Washington Post reveal that Russian officials are struggling to recruit more troops for the ongoing war against Ukraine without further angering the public. The military is urgently seeking to enlist 400,000 additional troops throughout 2023 for the war.
The Russian military started the full-scale invasion in February 2022 with a force of around 150,000 and has since mobilized over 300,000 more troops.
The leaked documents estimate that Russia has suffered 189,500 to 223,000 casualties, with up to 43,000 killed, but the Russian government has not publicly disclosed the number of soldiers it has sent to Ukraine or lost there.
Russia's estimated losses in Ukraine as of day 428 of the all-out war, according to Ukraine's GenStaff pic.twitter.com/HxtLkl9V6p
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) April 27, 2023
To avoid alienating the public and redirecting any public discontent away from the Kremlin, current plans involve tapping regional governors to organize recruitment campaigns and continuing to draw men from Russia’s prisons.
Russia is also undertaking a huge decentralized recruitment effort, including regional campaigns launched this month urging men to pursue military careers as contract soldiers and slick television ads released last week portraying military service as a path to excitement and glory and an escape from humdrum jobs.
Separate from the goal of enlisting 400,000 men for the war this year, Russian Defense Ministry officials “reported a Putin-supported plan” to recruit over 415,000 contract troops in 2023. The goal is part of a publicly announced plan by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to expand the Armed Forces to 1.5 million from 1.15 million by 2026. According to the plan, contract soldiers should make up nearly half of the total personnel.
Conscripts who choose to sign longer-term military contracts would count toward Shoigu’s goal. The document said that the plan was opposed by some Russian economic officials worried about potential effects on the civilian workforce. Despite the misgivings of some officials, aggressive efforts are underway to conscript or recruit fighters.