More than 4,000 students have “voluntarily taken academic leave and are performing combat missions” on the war with Ukraine since the beginning of 2023, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said during a Defense Ministry board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

Shoigu also said that the number of foreign volunteers willing to fight against Ukraine in the Russian army has increased sevenfold. By contrast, according to him, the opposite trend is observed in the Ukrainian army. The number of foreign mercenaries has allegedly decreased to a sixth of its initial numbers.

Kyiv Post asked the Ukrainian military intelligence to clarify this information, and they said it was just “more nonsense.”

In total, since January 2023, about 490,000 contractors and volunteers have been recruited into the Russian Armed Forces, Shoigu said. More than 650,000 soldiers have already gained experience in Ukraine.

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“Today, the Russian army is the most trained and combat-ready army in the world, with advanced weapons that have been tested in combat conditions,” Shoigu concluded.

On Dec. 1, Vladimir Putin signed a decree to increase the army’s staff by 170,000 people. The total staff of the armed forces is to increase to 2,209,130 people, including 1,320,000 military personnel.

Shoigu did not report any casualties in the Russian army, but assured that during this year of war in Ukraine, “the survival rate of the wounded has improved many times over.”

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At the defense ministry board, Shoigu also mentioned that in connection with Finland’s accession to NATO and Sweden’s upcoming accession to the alliance, the formation of the Leningrad and Moscow military districts is underway.

Results of the “special operation”

One of the results boasted by the Russian Defense Minister was that the territory liberated was five times larger than the territory occupied by the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics before the start of the special operation.

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According to Shoigu, almost three million people have moved to the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

“Almost three million refugees who have not seen their relatives since 2014 have returned to the new regions of the Russian Federation.”

The Russian Defense Ministry noted that NATO officers have been preparing military operations and training the personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine both in their countries and in Ukraine, but without success and with “enormous losses.”

The defense ministry also claimed that “modern Russian equipment has been rigorously tested in a special operation and has shown its superiority over similar models from NATO countries.”

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