Struggling in Ukraine, Russia paves way to sign up over-40s for army

Russian service members march during a parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo

LONDON, May 20 (Reuters) - In a sign of Russia's urgent need to bolster its war effort in Ukraine, parliament said on Friday it would consider a bill to allow Russians over 40 and foreigners over 30 to sign up for the military.

The website of the State Duma, parliament's lower house, said the move would enable the military to utilise the skills of older professionals.

"For the use of high-precision weapons, the operation of weapons and military equipment, highly professional specialists are needed. Experience shows that they become such by the age of 40–45," it said.

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Currently, only Russians aged 18-40 and foreigners aged 18-30 can enter into a first contract with the military.

Russia has suffered huge setbacks and heavy losses of men and equipment in the 86-day-old war, in which Ukraine has mobilised practically its entire adult male population. Despite taking full control of the ruins of Mariupol, Moscow remains far from its objective of seizing all of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. read more

"Clearly, the Russians are in trouble. This is the latest attempt to address manpower shortages without alarming their own population. But it is growing increasingly difficult for the Kremlin to disguise their failures in Ukraine," said retired U.S. General Ben Hodges, a former commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe.

Jack Watling, a land warfare specialist at the British security and defence think tank RUSI, said the Russian military was running short of infantry.

"Russia needs to stabilise manning in its military units in Ukraine and generate new units if it is to improve its position on the ground," he said.

"This will be a slow and complicated process, but can be accelerated by mobilising people with existing skills and military experience."

The Duma said the proposed legislation would also make it easier to recruit civilian medics, engineers and operations and communications specialists.

Separately, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday that Russia was forming 12 military units in its western military district in response to rising threats there, citing NATO membership bids by Finland and Sweden.

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Reporting by Mark Trevelyan, Editing by William Maclean and Frank Jack Daniel

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Thomson Reuters

Chief writer on Russia and CIS. Worked as a journalist on 7 continents and reported from 40+ countries, with postings in London, Wellington, Brussels, Warsaw, Moscow and Berlin. Covered the break-up of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Security correspondent from 2003 to 2008. Speaks French, Russian and (rusty) German and Polish.