© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Russia says it enlisted 300K new troops to fight in Ukraine and doesn't plan for more

Updated October 28, 2022 at 2:33 PM ET

MOSCOW — Russia announced it was formally ending a controversial mobilization drive to send additional forces to fight in Ukraine — with Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informing President Vladimir Putin in a televised meeting that the military had reached its target of 300,000 additional troops for the military campaign.

"No further mobilization efforts are planned," Shoigu said, adding that 82,000 men had already been deployed to Ukraine while more than 210,000 were currently in training.

Any future reinforcements, added Shoigu, would come from volunteers or professional contract soldiers in the army.

In response, Putin asked his defense chief to pass on his gratitude to all who had joined the military campaign "to defend Russia, and with it your home, your family, our citizens and people."

Putin announced the mobilization drive Sept. 21 as Russian troops were quickly losing territory they had seized in the previous seven months of war amid a surging Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The timing of the announcement came as Russia rushed to hold a series of what it claimed were "referendums" — denounced by the West — for occupied territories to formally join the Russian Federation.

Within days, the Kremlin announced it had formally annexed the territories from Ukraine — in many cases, including lands the Kremlin no longer controls.

The Russian setbacks on the battlefield also invited rare public criticism of the military leadership by nationalists — normally Kremlin allies.

Yet in announcing the drive, Putin insisted on calling it a "partial mobilization" — a semantic sleight of hand widely seen as an attempt to soften public outrage over a military campaign the Kremlin until then insisted was going "according to plan."

Putin assured the public only men with relevant military experience would be enlisted, but reports emerged of authorities repeatedly grabbing up people with no training across the country.

The announcement set off rare protests across the country — with more than 2,000 people detained based on draconian laws that criminalize criticism of the military.

Russia's parliament quickly passed additional laws threatening those who refused draft orders with lengthy prison sentences.

An estimated 700,000 Russians — most of them young men — fled to countries like Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Turkey in often desperate journeys to flee the draft. Prices soared or instantly sold out for plane tickets to other available visa-free destinations like Turkey and Armenia.

The mobilization effort was also characterized by chaos — with mobilized troops and their families complaining of a lack of proper gear and minimal training before being sent to the battlefield. In some cases, Russian men with no military background were drafted while others were recruited against their will.

In Moscow, authorities raided hostels where men were in hiding. In Saint Petersburg, recruitment officers stalked entrances to apartment buildings.

Amid growing public outrage, Putin acknowledged there had been "mistakes" in the recruitment drive.

Several dozen of the recently mobilized soldiers have already been reported killed in action — in some cases within days of arriving in Ukraine.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.