Putin to retract ‘special operation’ claim to deploy more troops

Russia set for ‘public backlash’ says Patrick Bury

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The Russian leader authorised the war under the guise of a “special military operation”, telling the country’s population the aim is to de-nazify Ukraine. But as the army faces “significant” losses and casualties, the Russian leader may need to “declare war” to replace lost men with young conscripts, legally.

War conscription in Russia is a 12-month draft, which is mandatory for all men in the country aged between the ages of 18 to 27.

Avoiding the draft is classed as a felony under Russian law and is punishable by up to two years in prison.

Conscription seasons run twice a year in Russia – from October 1 and December 31 and again from April 1 until July 15.

During these periods, men between the required age range, with no health issues or outstanding convictions, could be called to serve.

It means the next conscription phase takes part next month. Young Russian men are expected to be drafted to war to replace losses.

Predictions suggest Russia has lost somewhere between 15,000 to 50,000 soldiers since the war began in February, though the figure is difficult to pinpoint exactly.

But conscripts can only be drafted if the Russian leader admits the country is at war with Ukraine as there are certain domestic restrictions on what forces can be deployed abroad, a war expert explained.

Dr James Pritchett, a lecturer in war studies at the University of Hull, told Express.co.uk that, in order to use conscripts, Putin would have to “declare war”, which is likely to be “unpopular” with the Russian population.

The current law in Russia generally prohibits the mobilisation and use of conscripted soldiers and sailors from being deployed abroad.

Dr Pritchett said: “Conscripts can not be deployed to Ukraine because they are reserved for a war situation and, legally speaking, this is regarded [by Russia] as a special military operation.”

However, due to corruption, he added that some conscripts have already been used in the Ukraine war because they are “encouraged to join volunteer battalions” that are not well equipped.

Weeks after the war began, Vladimir Putin signed a decree ordering 134,500 new conscripts into the army as part of Russia’s annual spring draft.

But Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the call-up had nothing to do with Ukraine and conscripts would not be sent to any “hot spots”.

It was later acknowledged by the defence ministry that some had been sent to Ukraine despite Putin denying this on several occasions, claiming only professional soldiers and officers had been sent to war.

Drafting conscripts, who are badly trained and equipped, would likely be “an unpopular thing to do” as it will lead to losses of life in Russia and “many more men coming back in body bags”, Dr Pritchett said.

He added: “If things got really bad for him [Putin] in Ukraine, then he may find it necessary to declare war and call up conscripts.”

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