Moscow has turned to appealing for volunteers from neighboring countries to boost its numbers in Ukraine as high battlefield losses plague both sides of the conflict, according to a new assessment.
Russia has been “appealing to citizens of neighboring countries with recruitment adverts for individuals to fight in Ukraine,” including Kazakhstan and Armenia, since late June, the British Defense Ministry said on Sunday morning.
In the 18-month-long war, both sides have suffered heavy casualties, but Russian authorities have so far been reluctant to initiate full-scale mobilization of the populace. In mid-September 2022, the Kremlin announced a partial mobilization of around 300,000 military reservists, but has not launched another drive since.
Introducing a new mobilization order would prove an unpopular move with the public, as Moscow has sought to maintain a distance between Russia’s population and the “special military operation” it has fought since February 2022.
However, Moscow has been appealing to ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan’s northern Qostanai region, with adverts popping up there and also in Armenia, offering more than $5,000 in initial payments and salaries starting at just under $2,000, the British Defense Ministry said. Armenia and Kazakhstan were republics under the former Soviet Union from the mid-1930s and gained independence following the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s.
“Since at least May 2023, Russia has approached central Asian migrants to fight in Ukraine with promises of fast-track citizenship,” the U.K. government added in a post to social media.
“There are at least 6 million migrants from Central Asia in Russia, which the Kremlin likely sees as potential recruits,” the British Defense Ministry said, adding Moscow likely hopes to avoid enacting unpopular mobilization measures before next year’s presidential elections.
“Exploiting foreign nationals allows the Kremlin to acquire additional personnel for its war effort in the face of mounting casualties,” the U.K. ministry said. Newsweek has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment via email.
Neither Moscow nor Kyiv offer a running total of their own personnel losses, which are likely to be substantial on both sides. In updated figures published on Sunday, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Russia’s military had lost 264,660 fighters since Moscow launched its invasion in February 2022. The Kremlin lost around 600 troops in the past 24 hours, the General Staff said.
Russia’s Defense Ministry also said on Saturday that Ukraine’s forces said lost around 600 soldiers over the past day. Newsweek cannot independently verify battlefield figures.
Without a “major new wave” of mandatory mobilization, Moscow is “unlikely to find enough new troops to resource even one new army,” the U.K. government said.
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