Ukrainian intelligence officials say Russia commanders threatened to send conscripts to the front lines without weapons if they refuse to follow orders.
The move comes amid continued protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s draft, which has become part of his broader effort to mobilize new fighters after stinging losses in the East and South of Ukraine.
Russia has always had conscription — or mandatory military service. Their armed forces consist of a core of professional soldiers complemented by conscripts and reservice, which is usually made up of former recruits who can take on short-term military contracts or to be called up in times of need.
Nearly all healthy men age 18-27 are eligible for conscription — roughly 1.2 million at any given time.
But with an estimated 80,000 Russian soldiers killed or injured in the war so far, thousands in Russia have already been arrested for protesting the call-ups despite harsh laws in the country against dissent.
Putin’s scramble for soldiers is acknowledgment that its “army is not able to fight,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday, as splits sharpened in Europe over whether to welcome or turn away Russians fleeing the order.
Similarly, other military intelligence official agrees that even if Putin does manage to mobilize such a large number of troops — about 300,000 conscripts — pulling it off would be a logistical nightmare.
“The fact is that those 300,000 will definitely suck out of the economy,” Barry McManus, a security consultant who spent more than 25 years at the CIA, said on NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” Thursday.
His appearance on the program followed statements from Putin saying his nuclear-armed country will “certainly use all means available to us” if the country, its people and its territory are threatened.
“And what I mean by that is, you think there’s protests now, but there clearly will be protests in the future, and they will get worse countrywide — so Putin has to be very concerned about that.,” McManus said.