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Desperate for Recruits, Russia Launches a ‘Stealth Mobilization’

Leery of a national draft for the Ukraine war, the Kremlin is offering cash bonuses and employing strong arm tactics. Article by Neil MacFarquharfor the New York Times.

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.

One claimed to have been denied a promised payment of nearly $2,000. Another grumbled that a local hospital declined to remove shrapnel lodged in his body.

Their public pleas for help got results, but not the kind they were hoping 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 sort 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.

“Russia has a problem with recruitment and mobilization,” said Kamil Galeev, an independent Russian analyst and former fellow at The Wilson Center in Washington. “It is basically desperate to get more men using any means possible.”

The numbers of battlefield dead and wounded are closely held secrets on both sides. The British military recently estimated the number of dead Russians at 25,000, with tens of thousands more wounded, out of an invasion force of 300,000, including support units.

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Desperate for Recruits, Russia Launches a ‘Stealth Mobilization’ - article for the New Yor
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Emergency workers remove the remains of four Russian soldiers in a village outside Kharkiv in May. Amid some of the harshest fighting since World War II, the Russian Defense Ministry has not updated its casualty count since late March. Credit...Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times.

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