The Kremlin is reportedly struggling to recruit new soldiers because potential conscripts are concerned about what might happen to them in Ukraine. Upon hearing the news of their comrades dying in the invasion and the challenges the Russians are facing, Russian individuals are hesitant to enlist as they may not come back home if deployed to the frontlines.

Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesperson Col. Oleksandr Motuzyanyk cited their military intelligence when he claimed that Russia initially planned to amass around 26,000 reservists to fight in Donbas and failed because individuals avoided getting drafted.

“Males aged 18 to 65 make every attempt to avoid mobilization because they don’t want to become cannon fodder for the occupier’s army,” Motuzyanyk said.

According to Motuzyanyk, potential conscripts are told that their duties will be limited to “controlling occupied territories, guarding roads and military facilities, and improving the defense positions.” However, it appears that Moscow has a very flexible interpretation of these duties, as seen in the reports that Russian soldiers were unwillingly fighting in Ukraine.

Dead Russian soldiers who froze to death in Kharkiv (Ukrainian Army., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons). Source:,_Ukraine_(March_2022)_02.jpg
Dead Russian soldiers killed in Kharkiv. Note how closely packed together they are. March 2022 (Ukrainian Army, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Motuzyanyk claimed that the reality is these recruits will be sent to the frontlines to replace those that died since the start of the invasion.

“As practical experience shows, such mobilized people are the first priority reserve to replenish losses of those units who are directly engaged in combat action against Ukraine,” Motuzyanyk said.

After the unsuccessful operation of the Russians in northern Ukraine, Russian officials began their military operations in the east, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had announced that the battle of Donbas had commenced. Before this, the Russians claimed that the liberation of Donbas was always the goal of the operation and not to topple the Ukrainian government as earlier intel would suggest.

In the Russian system of conscription, evasion is widespread.  Families with money are able to get medical exemptions for their sons while others are able to avoid being served with the notice to appear at a conscription center by moving from their home area.  As a result, conscripts tend to be from the rural areas of Russia and are made up of the poor and uneducated sector of Russian society. Urban sophisticates in Russia’s two biggest cities Moscow or St Petersburg are vastly underrepresented in Russia’s armed forces.