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Desperate for Recruits, Russia Launches a ‘StealthMobilization’

By: Crystal Ge

Four Russian veterans of the war in Ukraine recently

published short videos online to complain about what they

called their ‘shabby treatment’ after returning to the Russian

region of Chechnya, after six weeks on the battlefield. Their

public pleas got results, but not the kind they were looking

for. Instead, an aide to Ramzan Kadyrov, the autocrat, who

runs Chechnya, berated them at length on television as

ingrates and forced them to recant.

“I was paid much more than they promised,” said

Nikolai Lipa, the young Russian who had claimed that he had

been cheated.

Ordinarily, these sorts of complaints might be

ignored, but the swift rebuke underscores how Russian

officials want to stamp out any criticism about military service

in Ukraine. They need more soldiers, desperately, and are

already using what some analysts call a ‘‘stealth mobilization’’

to bring in new recruits without resorting to a politically risky

national draft.

To make up the manpower shortfall, the Kremlin is relying on

a combination of impoverished ethnic minorities, Ukrainians

from the separatist territories, mercenaries and militarized

National Guard units to fight the war, and promising hefty

cash incentives for volunteers.

The public outcry after Chechnya prompted Russia to ban the

use on the battlefield of raw recruits, men aged 18-27 who are

required to complete a year of mandatory military service.

The authorities in Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia have

announced that they will form regiments made up entirely of

men from the region, apparently in hopes that local

nationalism would inspire more volunteers. It too has

reportedly been casting about for willing recruits.

In St. Petersburg, Wagner convinced several dozen prisoners

to sign six-month contracts to fight in exchange for about

$4,000 and amnesty if they come back alive, according to the

independent news outlet Important Stories.

The armies of many countries faced with similar gaps in

manpower and other problems might have collapsed, said

Johan Norberg, one of the authors of a recent report on the

war called “A Rude Awakening,” by the Swedish Defense

Research Agency. “All these groups are unlikely to contribute

to a decisive Russian win,” he said, referring to those

recruited. “But they can help maintain Russia’s current

positions and possibly allow for some minor tactical advances,

for example, in Donbas.”

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