Russia proposes 30% increase in size of armed forces

Dec 21 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his backing on Wednesday to a plan to boost the size of the armed forces by more than 30% as he said Moscow needed to learn from and fix the problems it had suffered in Ukraine.

At an end-of-year conference of Russia's top military brass, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu proposed beefing up the armed forces to 1.5 million combat personnel from 1.15 million.

This was required "to guarantee the solving of problems related to Russia's military security", Shoigu told Putin at the televised event. He said 695,000 of the fighters should be professional contracted soldiers - as opposed to conscripts serving mandatory military service.

Putin had signed a decree only this summer ordering troop numbers to be increased by 137,000 from Jan. 1 2023 to reach the 1.15 million level, and has also drafted more than 300,000 reservists in a controversial mobilisation drive to support Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during an annual meeting of the Defence Ministry Board in Moscow, Russia, December 21, 2022. Sputnik/Sergei Fadeichev/Pool via REUTERS

The United States and western military analysts say tens of thousands of Russian soldiers have died in the 10 months since Moscow invaded Ukraine. On Sept. 21 - the last time an official tally was shared publicly - Shoigu said 5,937 Russian soldiers had been killed there.

Shoigu also proposed raising the age range for mandatory Russian military service to cover Russian citizens aged 21-30.

Under the current system, Russians aged between 18-27 can be called up for mandatory military service - though Shoigu and Putin have repeatedly said that conscripts are not being sent to fight in Ukraine.

Speaking at the end of the conference, Putin said he agreed with Shoigu's proposals.

Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.