Putin replenishes dwindling troop reserves in second mobilisation

Vladimir Putin has signed a decree calling up 134,650 Russian men to active military duty as western analysts warn the Russian autocrat, hellbent on securing victory in Ukraine, is making furtive attempts to recruit soldiers to fight in Ukraine without “declaring a formal second mobilisation wave”. Putin’s last “partial mobilisation” in September 2022 sparked a mass exodus of Russian men of fighting age as they fled the country to avoid being called up.

Western analysts have told Express.co.uk that they believe the autocrat is now planning to make under-the-radar attempts to enlist more men to fight in Ukraine without causing panic and forcing more civilians to leave the country.

While the spring conscription decree mirrors that of last March, the significance of this initiative is notable as Russia desperately seeks more soldiers to fight in Ukraine.

The Kremlin denies that another call-up is planned for its “special military operation” in Ukraine, now more than a year old, but an official decree, signed by Vladimir Putin and posted on the website of the government’s legal information web portal on Monday, has revealed Russia’s so-called spring military conscription initiative.

The document decreed that Putin had actioned the drafting of “134,650 Russian citizens aged 18-27 for military service from April 1 to July 15 this year, for those who are not in reserve and are subject to active duty”.

Despite the promises against another mobilisation, Muscovite men have recently told local journalists that “any surprises from the Russian authorities can be expected”.

One Moscow local told the Associated Press last weekend that a state-funded organisation had gathered up the military registration cards of all male employees of fighting age of his company, telling them that they would get them deferments.

But after days of not hearing anything – the authorities usually return their cards in a day or two – he expressed his anxiety at possibly being called up to fight in Ukraine.

Russian media has reported that men across the country are receiving summonses from enlistment offices, telling them it is only for the purpose of updating their records, but in some cases, they have been subsequently ordered to take part in military training.

The Muscovite that spoke to AP on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal said no one dared refuse to hand in their cards despite stories of people being called up as they risked incarceration or rebuke.

He added: “It makes you nervous and scared — no one wants to all of a sudden end up in a war with a rifle in their hands.”

The government has been enticing men to volunteer, either at makeshift recruiting centres popping up in various regions or with phone calls from enlistment officials over the past few months.

Advertisements have also been spotted across Russia promising cash bonuses and enticing benefits, while enlistment offices have started working with universities and social service agencies to lure students and the unemployed.

That way, it can “avoid declaring a formal second mobilisation wave” after the first one proved so unpopular, according to a recent report by the US-based think tank the Institute of the Study of War.

And it appears that the Russian authorities have now doubled down on that strategy by announcing the spring conscription.

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Professor Michael Clarke, a UK-based military analyst, told Express.co.uk he believed Vladimir Putin was now attempting to furtively recruit Russians to fight in Ukraine.

While the last mobilisation announcement sparked chaos in Russia, leading to tens of thousands of men of fighting age fleeing the country, Professor Clarke suggested Putin will seek to avoid this catastrophe again by employing more underhand recruitment tactics.

He suggested that the Russian autocrat could look to employ up to 600,000 soldiers each year with two conscription initiatives, as opposed to formal mobilisation declarations.

As fighting grinds on in Ukrainian battlegrounds like Bakhmut and both sides prepare for counter-offensives that could cost even more lives, the Kremlin’s war machine badly needs new recruits.

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