Russain & Ukrain

Russia raises the maximum age of conscription as it seeks to replenish Ukraine forces

Russia’s parliament has voted to raise the maximum age at which men can be conscripted to 30 from 27, increasing the number of young men liable for a year of compulsory military service.

The bill comes as Moscow seeks to replenish its forces on the frontline in Ukraine without resorting to another mobilisation – a step the Kremlin took last September which proved unpopular.

“From January 1, 2024, citizens aged 18 to 30 will be called up for military service,” the lower house of parliament said after the bill was passed in a second and third reading.

The law also prohibits conscripts from leaving the country once the enlistment office has sent them their draft notice.

The bill still has to be approved by the upper chamber and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, steps that are considered a formality.

Previously, one year of military service was mandatory in Russia for men aged 18 to 27 with conscription carried out twice a year. Lawmakers also said they were dropping an initial proposal to gradually shift the conscription age to between 21 and 30.

“The wording of the draft law changed because the demographic situation is serious and affects the volume of the mobilisation resource,” Andrei Kartapolov, head of the Duma’s defence affairs committee, told the Interfax news agency.

Also on Tuesday, the Duma passed a bill significantly increasing fines for those who fail to show up at an enlistment office after a draft notice is received. They will be risking a fine of up to 30,000 rubles (about $330) when the law comes into force on 1 October. The maximum fine is currently 3,000 rubles.

The legislation passed on Tuesday also gives Russian governors the power to set up regional paramilitary units during periods of mobilisation or martial law. These units would be funded and armed by the state and given the right to shoot down drones, fight enemy sabotage groups and conduct counter-terrorist operations.

In 2022, Russia announced a plan to boost its professional and conscripted combat personnel by more than 30% to 1.5 million, an ambitious task made harder by its heavy but undisclosed casualties in Ukraine. In September, tens of thousands of men fled Russia last autumn after Putin announced a mobilisation of 300,000 reservists to prop up Moscow’s forces in Ukraine.

In April, Russian lawmakers adopted a law creating a digital conscription notice system. It allowed call-up papers to be served online instead of in person, greatly facilitating the mobilisation of Russians into the army.

Compulsory military service has long been a sensitive issue in Russia, where many men go to great lengths to avoid being handed conscription papers during the twice-yearly call-up periods.

Conscripts cannot legally be deployed to fight outside Russia and were in theory exempted from the September mobilisation – although some conscripts were sent to the front in error.

However, Russia unilaterally claimed four Ukrainian regions as its own last September, in a move not recognised internationally, fuelling fears that raw conscripts could now legally be sent into battle.

Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report

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