Moscow has started calling on volunteers from neighboring countries to bolster its numbers in Ukraine as heavy battlefield casualties hit both sides of the conflict, according to a new assessment.
Since the end of June, Russia “has been attracting citizens of neighboring countries with recruitment announcements to fight in Ukraine”, particularly in Kazakhstan and Armenia, the British Ministry of Defense said on Sunday morning.
During the 18-month war, both sides suffered heavy casualties, but the Russian authorities have so far been reluctant to engage in large-scale mobilization of the population. In mid-September 2022, the Kremlin announced a partial mobilization of around 300,000 military reserves, but has not launched another campaign since.
Introducing a new mobilization order would prove unpopular with public opinion, as Moscow seeks to maintain a distance between the Russian population and the “special military operation” it has been carrying out since February 2022.
However, Moscow has appealed to ethnic Russians in the Qostanai region of northern Kazakhstan, with advertisements appearing there and also in Armenia, offering more than $5,000 in upfront payments and salaries starting at just under of $2,000, the UK Ministry of Defense said. Armenia and Kazakhstan had been republics of the former Soviet Union since the mid-1930s and gained independence after the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s.
“Since at least May 2023, Russia has been approaching Central Asian migrants to fight in Ukraine promising fast-track citizenship,” the UK government added in a social media post.
“There are at least 6 million Central Asian migrants in Russia, whom the Kremlin probably sees as potential recruits,” the British Ministry of Defense said, adding that Moscow is probably hoping to avoid adopting mobilization measures. unpopular ahead of the presidential elections next year.
“The exploitation of foreign nationals allows the Kremlin to acquire additional personnel for its war effort in the face of increasing casualties,” the British ministry said. News week contacted 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 released on Sunday, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said the Russian military had lost 264,660 fighters since Moscow launched its invasion in February 2022. The Kremlin has lost around 600 soldiers in the past past 24 hours, the general staff said.
The Russian Defense Ministry also said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces lost around 600 troops over the past day. News week cannot independently verify battlefield numbers.
Without a “major new wave” of mandatory mobilization, Moscow “is unlikely to find enough new troops to fund even a new army”, the British government has said.