President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered Russia’s first mobilization since World War II following a major upset on the battlefield in Ukraine, attempting to turn the military tide as a defined east-west conflict.
For now, the mobilization is officially being described as partial, rather than a full call-up that will steadily draw 300,000 reservists from the world’s largest country over a period of months, according to Russia’s defense minister. Depends on what you say. Huge reserve force of 25 million people.
Men and women aged 18 to 60 can theoretically be called reservists depending on their rank according to Russian law.
Western military analysts have long said that Russia is facing severe manpower shortages on Ukraine’s battlefields due to heavy losses, while Russian nationalists have been calling for some sort of mobilization for months to help them begin a new life. Inject what he described as a stuttering campaign.
Ukraine began its own mobilization program two days before Russia’s February 24 invasion and soon thereafter declared martial law, which banned men aged 18-60 from leaving the country. It is currently on its fourth wave of mobilization. The exact number of reservoirs collected in Ukraine is classified but official announcements suggest it is at least 400,000.
Here are the main elements of Russia’s mobilization plan, some of which are set out in a decree signed by Putin on the Kremlin website, and other parts removed by Putin himself or his defense minister.
* Immediate call-up of 300,000 military constables who have previously served in the Russian army and have combat experience or special military skills. Students or recruits – young men serving mandatory 12-month terms in the Armed Forces – will not join.
* The army is looking for reservists who have performed specific and specialized tasks in the army in the past, such as tank drivers, sappers and snipers. However, it has classified the exact list of required specifications, which shows where the personnel gaps in Russia lie.
* Critics have said that the terminology of the mobilization decree and the details of who will and will not be included are deliberately left vague to give officials wider latitude when enforcing it. There is no mention of the 300,000 figure to be published in the decree, which came from an interview Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu gave to state TV. The Kremlin said part of the decree, which it said referred to the mobilization of 300,000 people in phases, was deliberately not published. It was not clear whether other details were also deliberately concealed.
* The main task of the reservoirs, according to Shoigu, will be to reinforce the front line in Ukraine, which is currently more than 1,000 km (621 mi) long. “Naturally what is behind this line needs to be reinforced, the area needs to be controlled,” Shoigu told state television.
* Reservists cannot be deployed to Ukraine immediately because they must first undergo refresher or new training and familiarization with what Russia calls its “special military operations”. Western military analysts predict it will take several months to see action.
* Professional soldiers, known as ‘contractniks’, who are currently serving in the Armed Forces, their contracts will automatically be extended unless officers decide to end the period of temporary mobilization. In other words, it has become very difficult to serve professional soldiers.
*Only on the basis of age, valid health complaints verified by the Medical-Military Commission, or who have been sentenced to prison by a court, may be discharged from the Army or Reserve Force. People working in the defense industry can defer service.
* A day earlier, the Russian parliament approved a bill to harden punishments for offenses such as abandonment, damage to military property and disobedience if committed during military mobilization or war situations. According to a copy of the law seen by Reuters, voluntary surrender would become an offense punishable by 10 years in prison for Russian military personnel.
* Reservists will be financially incentivized and paid like full-time professional servicemen who earn a lot more than the average Russian salary. This may make the offer more attractive to some men in provinces where wages have traditionally been lower than in larger cities.
* Western military analysts have questioned whether Russia has enough military equipment and hardware, as well as experienced military trainers, to properly prepare and deploy reservists after its loss in Ukraine. Moscow says it does.
* Western military analysts are divided on whether partial mobilization does little to change the course of the war in Moscow’s favor. Most say they think it’s too late, but some say it could help Russia in some ways, though not immediately and not conclusively.
* The announcement of mobilization appears to have created panic in some potential reservoirs. One-way flights out of Russia were selling out fast on Wednesday, and there were unverified media reports of some people being turned back by Russian border guards, according to ticket sales data.
* Jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny predicted on Wednesday that many would try to dodge the draft.
* Activists of the Vesna (Spring) anti-war coalition called on Russians to oppose the announcement of mobilization in the city and city centers on Wednesday evening. Any such protest is likely to be broken up by the authorities. Only demonstrations approved in advance by the authorities are considered legal under Russian law.
“This (mobilization) means that thousands of Russian men – our fathers, brothers and husbands – will be thrown into the meat grinder of war,” Vesna said in a statement. “Now the war will really come to every house and every family.”
* Small protests took place in some cities of Russia on Wednesday.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)