The Financial Times (FT) spoke to Russian sources who told it that a new mobilization wave will be necessary by the end of 2024 if Moscow is to achieve its military aims in Ukraine.

In September 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decree to conscript 300,000 men for his “special military operation” resulted in considerable domestic unrest, leading tens of thousands of military-age men to flee the country to evade military service.

Since then, the Kremlin has incentivized enlistment by offering lucrative contracts with generous wages and bonuses, which the UK Ministry of Defence says has seen steady monthly recruitment levels of approximately 30,000-40,000 personnel.

Regional recruiters offer competitive recruitment packages, with one-time bonuses for enlistment exceeding one million rubles ($11,000) and monthly wages ranging from $2,150 to $2,700, nearly triple the average Russian salary. The families of soldiers also receive, or, at least are promised, substantial compensation for serious injuries or death.

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Despite enduring heavy losses, the Russian army has expanded by 15 percent, in comparison with its pre-2022 invasion levels according to a recent report by General Christopher Cavoli, NATO’s top commander in Europe.

The FT’s investigation reveals novel recruitment tactics, including new legislation that offers suspects in criminal cases the chance of having charges dismissed if they agree to serve in the army in Ukraine.

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Russia mobilized over 385,000 soldiers last year alone, according to Oleksandr Lytvynenko, Ukraine’s chief of national security and defense council.

While recent territorial gains have been made in the Kharkiv region, Lytvynenko and analysts argue that capturing the city of Kharkiv would require a significantly larger military force than Russia currently fields in the region. Ukraine assesses that approximately 50,000 Russian troops have been deployed near Russia’s Belgorod region, in preparation for future military operations, Lytvynenko said.

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According to a source within the Russian defense establishment, Moscow might have to do more than introduce new recruitment methods to maintain its numerical military advantage.

“The government can keep riding on this system for a while... but by the end of this year, or early next year, a new partial mobilization wave will become inevitable,” the source said.

The source also told FT that a significant Russian offensive during the summer would be impossible without another mobilization wave from the Kremlin.

Grigory Sverdlin, the founder of the “Get Lost” project, which aids Russians to evade the draft, said the shortage of manpower is worsening despite enticing wages being advertised on city billboards, saying: “Huge sums of money. But despite this, there are not enough people.”

A Russian digital conscription register, replacing the postal call-up system, will be enforced in the autumn, preventing men from leaving the country.

Sverdlin said “They are plugging the gap any way they can,” saying a second mobilization wave this year is inevitable.

“It’s just a question of when,” he added.

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