Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed an order to increase Russia’s armed forces by 137,000 troops as the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine enters six months and Ukrainian officials warn the war is far from over.
The decree boosts Russia’s armed forces from about 1.9 million to just over 2 million personnel in total and increases the number of active-duty service members from just over 1.01 million to 1.15 million, marking the first increase in armed forces of Kremlin forces for five years, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
The increase, which takes effect on January 1, 2023, comes amid reports that 80,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded since the war began in February, according to US officials. Ukrainian officials estimate they have lost 9,000 soldiers, while an estimated 5,587 Ukrainian civilians have been killed since Monday, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
On Thursday, Director of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov told US-funded Radio Liberty that winning the war would be “very difficult”.
Danilov’s remarks came a day after a Russian airstrike killed at least 25 people at a train station in central Ukraine – the latest Russian attack on civilians – amid warnings from both US officials and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Moscow may be planning “something particularly nasty”.
Putin’s order did not specify whether it would include conscription or an increase in volunteer forces, although Russian officials have said they are seeking to attract more volunteers, hire private military contractors and offer amnesty to some prisoners willing to complete a military tour, according to with the Associated Press.
The Russian invasion marked six months on Wednesday and has so far devastated parts of Ukraine, particularly the eastern Donbas region, where the war has centered in recent months after Russia backed down from its initial efforts to seize the capital Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities. During the war, Ukrainian infrastructure has suffered about $113.5 billion in damage, according to the Kyiv School of Economics, and at least 12 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes, according to the UN.
Putin’s order also came a day after US President Joe Biden announced a $3 billion military package for Ukraine, the largest tranche of US military aid since the Russian invasion began in February. The latest package brings total US military aid to Ukraine during the war to $13.6 billion, according to the Defense Department. The US has now committed $15.6 billion to Ukraine’s security since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
134,500. That’s how many new conscripts have entered the Russian armed forces since Putin’s last military call-up in March. At the time, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the new conscripts would not be sent to “hot spots” in Ukraine.