| 4 December 2023, Monday |

As Putin signs new law on draft, Russia says spring call-up is running as planned

Russia’s normal spring military conscription campaign is progressing as planned, with no plans to send out large electronic warnings under a new mechanism signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, a top official said.

Colonel Andrei Biryukov, an officer in an armed forces department in charge of the draft, made the declaration to allay fears that Russia might rapidly exploit the new method to undertake another mass call-up for the war in Ukraine.

Russia is currently in the process of calling up 147,000 men aged 18 to 27 between April 1 and July 15 to perform compulsory military service as part of its longstanding twice-yearly conscription cycle.

Biryukov said the first conscripts would be dispatched to “permanent deployment points on the territory of the Russian Federation” from April 20.

He emphasized that some people were still entitled to defer their military service and said there would be no mass mailings of new electronic summonses to people of conscript age.

The current planned cohort of spring conscripts is 12,500 bigger than the 134,500 who were called up this time last year. Conscripts require months of training and Russia has said they will not be sent into war zones in Ukraine, after acknowledging cases where this had happened in the first weeks of the conflict last year.

But they provide a pool of young, trained personnel who can then be encouraged or pressured into signing up as professional soldiers as Russia pursues its stated aim of boosting the armed forces by more than 30% to 1.5 million.

Tens if not hundreds of thousands of Russian men have fled abroad since the start of the war, an exodus that peaked last September when Putin ordered a special mobilization of 300,000 reservists with previous military experience – the first of its kind since World War Two.

Putin on Friday signed new legislation introducing electronic draft papers, replacing a previous system where call-up notices had to be hand-delivered.

The new draft regime will close numerous loopholes exploited by draft dodgers and lays the groundwork for Russia to carry out a much more thorough and wider mobilisation campaign if and when it decides to do so.

Under the new rules, citizens who evade the draft will be banned from travelling abroad and face other restrictions including on loans and state benefits.

  • Reuters