Russia lures ‘volunteer’ army recruits with high salaries to make up for battlefield losses

·2 min read
Russian army - Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP
Russian army - Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

Russia is forming 40 battalions of “volunteers” to make up for losses in its regular army, according to local media reports.

The Kremlin has empowered regional officials to raise the recruits by offering high salaries and short-term contracts, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Monday, citing public records.

Moscow has had around 75,000 soldiers killed or wounded since invading Ukraine and is facing increasing pressure from a counter-offensive in the south.

Local officials from Vladivostok to Moscow have lured new troops with the offer of pay of up to £2,800 per deployment, as much as a regular worker could hope to earn in six months. The soldiers also earn generous daily payments of around £1,000.

Vladimir Putin has been unwilling to declare an all-out war on Ukraine which would allow the Russian leader to draft men of military age.

Local officials are now openly advertising that “volunteers” will be sent to the front in what analysts have described as a “silent” mobilisation.

In eastern Siberia’s Yakutia, about 5,000 kilometres east of the Ukrainian border, Aysen Nikolayev, the republic’s governor, praised the volunteers saying they were going to war to “liberate friendly republics and shore up the borders and defences of our country”.

In Tatarstan, a region on the Volga that is home to a Turkic people with a distinct local identity, officials insisted that they had to organise two battalions, which got Tatar names, as a response to popular demand.

Maj Yevgeny Tokmakov, who spearheads the effort in the regional capital Kazan, told Kommersant he saw nothing wrong with a military unit formed on the basis of one ethnicity or region.

“The idea is to form battalions from Tatarstan natives so that they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with each other, with familiar people and go ahead to perform their combat duty,” he said.

So far, Chechnya’s Akhmat has been Russia’s best-known single-ethnicity battalion. Its fighters have taken part in the siege of Mariupol and have been implicated in numerous war crimes.

The set-up is unusual compared to regular Russian armed forces where recruits from different regions and of different ethnicities are mixed together in the same unit.

An unnamed government official told Kommersant that the Kremlin is glad that regional officials are shouldering the burden of bringing in reinforcements and sharing the cost, as the volunteers are paid out of local budgets.