Bracing for fights ahead, Russia and Ukraine step up recruitment

Bracing for fights ahead, Russia and Ukraine step up recruitment

Their soldiers battling and dying across muddy trenches, ruined towns and sprawling minefields, Russia and Ukraine have stepped up recruitment drives to bolster their badly depleted militaries, in another sign that both sides are steeling themselves for a long war.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia signed a decree on Thursday authorizing a larger-than-normal spring draft, with a target of about 147,000 men, about 10% more than the goal of Russia’s 2022 spring drive. Although the new recruits are unlikely to go to the battlefield immediately – and one Russian official claimed they would not be sent there at all – the draft will create a bigger pool of potential troops for Russia’s army, which has suffered immense casualties.

Ukraine, also trying to replenish its ranks, said that it had received more than 35,000 applications for a new force it is forming, the Offensive Guard. For several weeks, trying to entice volunteers, Ukraine’s government has plastered posters and billboards across the country and advertised its plan for a network of combat brigades meant to work under the Interior Ministry alongside the regular armed forces.

All the while, more deliveries of Western weapons are arriving in Ukraine, where officials say they will soon launch a counteroffensive to reclaim territory lost in the east and south.

Neither Ukraine nor Russia disclose their own casualty numbers, but Western officials and analysts say both have suffered huge losses in their militaries. American officials have estimated that about 200,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded since the full-scale invasion began last February, and that Ukraine has had more than 100,000 casualties.

The recent weeks of vicious battle in the east, in particular, in cities and towns like Bakhmut and Avdiivka, have cost Ukraine large numbers of troops, including some of their most experienced fighters. U.S. officials said last month that, at times, hundreds of Ukrainian troops were being wounded or killed each day.

Although he has quashed dissent within Russia, Putin remains sensitive to public opinion, and he has faced periodic outrage from relatives of soldiers and sailors – for instance, after the sinking of Russia’s Black Sea flagship in the spring and during the haphazard draft last fall. This week, Russian officials appeared to try to tamp down concerns that the newest recruits would soon wind up in the fighting.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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