Russia is preparing to widen conscription in order to shore up its military strength, according to British intelligence.
In its Saturday update on the course of the war in Ukraine, Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) observed that members of the State Duma — the lower house of Russia’s federal legislature — had “introduced a bill to change the age bracket for conscription to men aged 21-30 years, from the current 18-27.”
While the number of years covered by the age bracket is unchanged, men towards the lower end of the current 18-27 bracket are often able to claim an exemption from service due to being in higher education.
“The [Russian] authorities are highly likely changing the age bracket to bolster troop numbers by ensuring that students are eventually forced to serve,” the MoD suggested, noting that the new law is likely to pass and come into effect by January 2024.
The Ministry of Defence acknowledges that “Russia continues to officially bar conscripts from operations in Ukraine” but points out that “at least hundreds have probably served through administrative mix ups or after being coerced to sign contracts.”
Detractors of Western support for Ukraine tend to dismiss such suggestions, given Britain is a partisan actor in the war, but the Russian authorities acknowledge that conscripts have at times been sent to Ukraine, seemingly in error.
Prosecutor Arthur Yegiev told Russian legislators last June that roughly a dozen officers faced proceedings for their role in deploying conscripts — which had embarrassed President Vladimir Putin, who assured the public only professional soldiers were being used in what the Kremlin terms the “special military operation” in Ukraine.
“Even if Russia continues to refrain from deploying conscripts in the war, extra conscripts will free up a greater proportion of professional soldiers to fight,” the MoD concluded.