Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian military to increase the size of the country’s armed forces by 137,000 amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.
His order, issued on Thursday, did not explain whether the increase would be achieved by enlisting more conscripts, boosting the number of professional soldiers or a combination of both.
The Kremlin has not announced any military casualties since the first weeks of the invasion. Now in its seventh month, it reported that 1,351 soldiers have been killed.
But Western officials estimate the true number to be at least 10 times higher, with Kyiv claiming to have killed or wounded at least 45,000 Russian servicemen since February 24.
A report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies says Russia had 900,000 active military personnel at the start of this year and two million reservists with military service over the past five years.
The last time Putin specified the size of the Russian military was in November 2017, when the number of combat personnel was set at 1.01 million in the total armed forces.
Reports say Putin has tried to boost the number of troops involved in military action in Ukraine by attracting more volunteers, hiring private military contractors
[σ.σ. μισθοφόρους] and even offering amnesty to prisoners in exchange for a term of military service.
All Russian men aged 18 to 27 must serve a year in the army, but a large percentage avoid conscription for health reasons or deferments granted to university students.
The percentage of men who avoid conscription is particularly high in Moscow and other large cities.
The Russian army calls draftees twice a year, in spring and summer.
In recent years, the Kremlin has emphasized increasing the percentage of volunteer contract soldiers [επαγγελματίες οπλίτες] as he sought to modernize the military and improve its readiness.
Before Moscow sent troops to Ukraine, the Russian military had more than 400,000 contract soldiers, including 147,000 in the ground forces.
Observers have noted that if the campaign continues, these numbers will not be enough to support operations in Ukraine, which has stated its goal of forming an army of one million.