Putin orders Russian military to start beefing up in 2023

Amid war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the beefing up of his country’s military by the recruitment of 137,000 next year

August 25, 2022 06:31 pm | Updated 07:23 pm IST - MOSCOW

File picture of Russian soldiers marching at the Red Square in Moscow, Russia

File picture of Russian soldiers marching at the Red Square in Moscow, Russia | Photo Credit: Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Thursday to increase the size of Russia’s armed forces from 1.9 million to 2.04 million as the war in Ukraine enters its seventh month.

Moscow has not revealed any losses in the conflict since its first weeks, but Western officials and the Kyiv government say they number in the thousands.

The increase includes a 137,000 boost in the number of combat personnel to 1.15 million. It comes into effect on January 1, 2023, according to the decree published on the government’s legislative portal.

The last time Mr. Putin fixed the size of the Russian army was in November 2017, when the number of combat personnel was set at 1.01 million from a total armed forces headcount, including non-combatants, of 1.9 million.

Casualties in Ukraine undisclosed

Russia has not said how many casualties it has suffered in Ukraine since the first weeks of the campaign, when it said 1,351 of its soldiers had been killed.

Western estimates say the actual number could be at least 10 times that, while Ukraine says it has killed or wounded at least 45,000 Russian troops since the conlfict — which Moscow calls a special military operation — started on Feb. 24.

Kyiv has also been reluctant to publish information on how many of its soldiers have died in the war, but on Monday the head of Ukraine’s armed forces said almost 9,000 service personnel had been killed in a rare update.

Mr. Putin’s decree did not say how the increase in headcount was to be achieved but instructed the government to assign the corresponding budget.

According to an authoritative annual report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Russia had 900,000 active service personnel at the start of this year, and reserves of 2 million people with service within the past five years.

Conscripts, volunteers or both

Mr. Putin’s decree signed Thursday didn’t explain whether the military will beef up its ranks by drafting a bigger number of conscripts, increasing the number of volunteer soldiers or using a combination of both.

The Kremlin has said that only volunteer contract soldiers take part in what it calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine, rejecting claims that it was pondering a broad mobilisation.

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