Contrary to various forecasts, Moscow has so far not called for a general mobilization even after five months of war against Ukraine. In the fight are professional and temporary soldiers as well as members of private security and military companies. Men recruited by the self-proclaimed “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” in Donbass are also deployed.

Instead of drawing in recruits in a general mobilization, the drafting offices are apparently more actively looking for temporary soldiers than ever and are probably also targeting conscripts, according to various sources.

Alexander, who does not want to give his real name for security reasons, is a veteran and has not lived in Russia for years. His passport still contains his Russian registration address, under which his parents still live. They recently received a subpoena addressed to their son from the local draft office.

“I’ve been listed with the agency for more than 20 years – ever since I was a soldier in the military. I’m a veteran and don’t know what this is related to. This is probably a covert mobilization,” says Alexander. He himself condemns the Russian attack on Ukraine. If he were still in Russia, he says he would try to leave the country as soon as possible after such a summons.

Apparently, more and more Russians who have been in the military and are experienced in combat are receiving subpoenas. The topic is currently being widely discussed on the Russian social network VK – those affected exchange advice on how best to react to a summons. “My son went into office on June 14th. They looked at his ID and asked if he wanted a contract. Then they let him go,” writes Anna on the VK network. She is a member of a women’s group in Arkhangelsk.

Human rights activist Alexander Gorbachev advises conscripts. Since the beginning of the war – and especially since the last month – he has observed an increased search for contract soldiers. “In the past, only conscripts and men who came to office voluntarily were offered a contract. There weren’t any mass calls or summonses,” he says.

According to Oksana Paramonova, head of the human rights organization Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg, the search for conscripts for temporary contracts is now increasing. According to Paramonova, methods were also used when conscripting those doing basic military service that had previously been rather unusual.

By law in Russia, men between the ages of 18 and 27 are conscripted. There are exceptions for those who cannot afford military service because of their health. Students also get a provision for the time of their studies.

The rights of conscripts have been violated many times before, but this year there are unprecedented cases, Oksana Paramonova said. As an example, she cites the call-up of seniors regardless of the accrual they have left. The human rights activist reports that people with health problems who are not normally allowed to serve in the army have also been called up, pointing to numerous complaints of this kind on the “Soldier’s Mothers of St. Petersburg” hotline.

In addition, according to Paramonova, the authorities are now also contacting companies directly with lists of employees who are being summoned. That was unusual in the past. A subpoena received at the workplace cannot be ignored by law. But the drafting offices themselves would not force anyone to sign a temporary contract, the human rights activist confirms.

An exception to this is the Russian republic of Chechnya. There, the Russian-language Internet newspaper The Insider recently reported that men were being forced to go to the front by means of kidnapping, torture and criminal proceedings.

The “soldier mothers” confirm that this is not common in other regions of Russia. “There are cases where there is no direct psychological pressure, but where potential contractors are deceived about payments, benefits and working conditions,” said Paramonova. Many would complain to their hotline that contractual terms were not being met. However, it often turns out that the contract soldiers did not read their contracts thoroughly before signing them.

In many cases it is not even necessary to force people to go to war. Queues are often seen outside mobile drafting stations these days. Vladimir Putin abolished the age limit for military service at the end of May. Now over 40-year-olds can register. And many do.

An important incentive is the remuneration. The offices have also placed numerous advertisements to recruit soldiers. Anyone who signs a contract receives a salary of 200,000 rubles a month – the equivalent of 3,500 euros. This is five times more than the average salary of a Russian. According to Alexander Gorbachev, the regular pay in peacetime was 25,000 rubles, around 400 euros.

However, the advertisements do not indicate whether the deployment in the war zone is involved. There is only indirect evidence of this. For example, at the end of a description it says: “While conducting the special military operation, a contract can be concluded for four months or more.” Russia describes the war against Ukraine as a “special military operation”.

“There is no covert mobilization in the sense of forced conscription to take part in combat operations in Ukraine,” says Oleg Ignatov, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group General mobilization would be announced. This has not happened, but cannot be ruled out in the future, says Ignatov. So far, such a decision has probably been avoided for political reasons. Because the passive supporters of the war could quickly become active opponents of the war, the expert analyzes. And the Russian leadership fears displeasure among the population

Gaps in Russian infantry in the advance on the Donbass, the expert said, have so far been offset by Moscow’s artillery superiority. But Russia’s military forces would not be enough to capture the cities of Dnipro, Odessa or Kyiv. “We don’t know how far Russia wants to go in Ukraine. But Russia is not moving away from its goals and policies. If it finds itself cornered, a general mobilization could also be called,” said Ignatov.

Adaptation from the Russian: Markian Ostapchuk

Author: Sergey Satanovskiy

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*The contribution “Covered mobilization? How Russia is recruiting new soldiers” is published by Deutsche Welle. Contact the person responsible here.