Putin scrambles to replace dead Russian soldiers by bribing foreigners to fight

Fire billows from Russian military base in Pskov

Russia is reportedly turning to its neighbours to replace its dead soldiers by offering money for foreign fighters, according to the UK’s Ministry of Defence.

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine – which was supposed to take three days – has cost the lives of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers.

Following a mass mobilisation that sparked uproar in some parts of the country, the Russian military is reportedly looking to its neighbours and migrants in Russia to bolster its ranks amid massive casualties.

“As of late June 2023, Russia has been appealing to citizens of neighbouring countries with recruitment adverts for individuals to fight in Ukraine,” the MoD said in an X – formerly Twitter – update.

The ads offer sign on bonuses of up to approximately £4,000 as well as a monthly salary of around £1,500, according to UK intelligence.

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The ads have been seen targeting ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan and have also appeared online in Armenia. In addition, Central Asian migrants inside Russia and Ukraine are being targeted for forced service.

“Uzbek migrant builders in Mariupol have reportedly had their passports confiscated upon arrival and been coerced to join the Russian military. There are at least six million migrants from Central Asia in Russia, which the Kremlin likely sees as potential recruits,” the MoD added.

Putin is likely wary of calling for another mobilisation ahead of the presidential elections in 2024 – his last mobilisation of 300,000 soldiers was met with limited unrest and saw thousands of Russian men attempt to flee the country.

Russia has lost a huge amount of soldiers during the war. In February, the MoD estimated that between 40,000 and 60,000 Russians had been killed and fighting has only intensified since then on several fronts.

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US intelligence estimated in spring that 43,000 Russians had died while total casualties ranged from 189,500 to 223,000, according to a leaked classified report.

Independent Russian media outlets Meduza and Mediazona used statistical modelling to estimate that 47,000 Russians have been killed in Ukraine. Kyiv puts that number at an incredibly high 250,000.

For comparison, around 15,000 Soviet troops died during that country’s brutal 10-year-long invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

As fighting intensifies during a months-long Ukrainian counteroffensive already well underway, one thing appears certain: Vladimir Putin will need more soldiers to fight – and die – in Ukraine.

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