Vladimir Putin signs decree to increase size of Russian armed forces

Order to increase personnel from 1.9 to 2.04 million comes as war in Ukraine enters seventh month

Vladimir Putin has signed a decree to increase the size of Russia’s armed forces from 1.9 million to 2.04 million, as the war in Ukraine enters its seventh month with no signs of abating.

The Russian president’s decree appears to point to the country’s aim to replenish its military, which has suffered heavy losses in Ukraine and failed to achieve its objective to capture the capital, Kyiv.

The order, which will come into effect on 1 January, includes a 137,000 rise in the number of combat personnel to 1.15 million.

It marks a noticeable increase in army personnel since the last time Russiaexpanded the size of its military in 2017, when it added 13,698 military personnel and 5,357 non-combatants.

Russia does not publicly disclose how many casualties it has suffered in Ukraine, but in May the UK Ministry of Defence said Moscow had lost as much as a third of its ground combat strength since the start of the war.

The CIA director, William Burns, last month said an estimated 15,000 Russian servicemen had died in Ukraine, “and maybe three times that wounded”.

Moscow, which has so far opted against declaring a general mobilisation, has recently intensified its efforts to recruit new soldiers, through what some experts have referred to as “covert mobilisation”.

Regions across Russia have started to form volunteer battalions, offering lucrative short-term contracts to men aged between 18 and 60. Western intelligence has also said private military companies, including the Wagner group, are being used to reinforce Russia’s frontline forces as the Kremlin faces troop shortages.

Thursday’s decree did not specify how the increase in headcount was to be conducted but ordered the government to assign the appropriate budget to the military.

avel Luzin, a Russian military expert, said Moscow would struggle to increase the number of soldiers, saying “this decree is contrary to the objective reality on the ground”.

Putin’s order comes after a senior Russian diplomat this week told the Financial Times that Moscow sees no possibility of a diplomatic solution to end the war in Ukraine and expects a long conflict.

Ukraine has similarly ruled out peace talks, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowing to recapture lost territory in the country’s east and south.

A Russian court on Thursday placed Yevgeny Roizman, an opposition politician who has been an outspoken critic of the invasion of Ukraine, under house arrest while he is investigated on charges of “discrediting” the Russian army.

Roizman, the former mayor of Ekaterinburg, was detained on Wednesday. He is to be restricted from leaving his home, attending public events or using the internet and can only communicate with close family, members, his lawyer and investigators.

The court stopped short of jailing him, possibly because of concerns that his detention could lead to public protests in Ekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth largest city.

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