Ukraine accuses Russia of preparing to conscript from youth movement

An alleged document signed by the Russian defense minister called for assessing the possibility of recruiting 17 and 18-year-olds from Russia's Unarmia.

 A honor guard stands by the Eternal Glory World War Two monument during an inauguration ceremony of newly-adopted members of the Unarmia (Young Army) military patriotic movement in the southern city of Stavropol, Russia, April 27, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/EDUARD KORNIYENKO )
A honor guard stands by the Eternal Glory World War Two monument during an inauguration ceremony of newly-adopted members of the Unarmia (Young Army) military patriotic movement in the southern city of Stavropol, Russia, April 27, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS/EDUARD KORNIYENKO )

Russia is preparing to conscript soldiers from its Unarmia military youth movement to replenish its losses, the Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate (GUR) claimed on Sunday.

GUR claimed to have obtained a document signed by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that called for the assessment of the possibility of attracting members of Unarmia aged 17 to 18 years to join the "special military operation on the territory  of Ukraine after conscription for military service."

The Intelligence Directorate compared the recruitment to the enlistment of Hitler Youth by Nazi Germany in World War II.

While GUR alleged that this would constitute enlisting minors to participate in the war, the potential recruitment of Russian youth would occur in the spring and autumn of 2022, when they would already be 18 years old or older.

Some Western nations allow for the enlistment process into the military to begin when the recruit is still a minor, but will not train and deploy them until they are legal adults. The UK armed forces still recruit citizens as young as 16 years of age, though it doesn't send them into combat until they are above 18.

 A charred Russian tank and captured tanks are seen, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Sumy region, Ukraine, March 7, 2022. (credit: Irina Rybakova/Press service of the Ukrainian Ground Forces/Handout via REUTERS) A charred Russian tank and captured tanks are seen, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Sumy region, Ukraine, March 7, 2022. (credit: Irina Rybakova/Press service of the Ukrainian Ground Forces/Handout via REUTERS)

Unarmia, according to its website, is a "voluntary Russian children's and youth movement" that was founded in 2016. It says that it has around a million members, who participate in sporting events and "master the basics of predatory military training, develop leadership skills, and acquire scientific and technical competencies" through the organization.

The document allegedly attributed to Shoigu and the Russian Defense Ministry reviewed the possibility of fast-tracking youth movement conscription "in order to compensate for the losses inflicted by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation during the conduct of a special military campaign on the territory of Ukraine."

The Ukrainian Military has made several claims throughout the last two weeks that Russia was seeking to supplement its supposed losses with conscripts, mercenaries, and local Donbas irregulars

"Russia starts conscripting population living in occupied Donbas to reinforce its armed forces fighting in Ukraine," Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko alleged on Saturday night.

"The [Donbas] units formed in this way are characterized by extremely low combat training, discipline and morale," the Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate claimed on Saturday.  

They asserted that those being recruited from separatist regions are being used as an advanced vanguard, described by the directorate as "cannon fodder," to detect Ukrainian firing positions. 

Syrian President Bashar Assad has promised to provide some 40,000 militants to the Russian Federation for the war in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry reported on Thursday afternoon.

According to Ukrainian intelligence, weapons and other equipment will be transferred to Russia and Belarus from Syria in the near future, the statement reported, in addition to as many as 40,000 militants.

A report on March 13 from Ukrainian intelligence indicated that Russia had already opened 14 recruitment centers across Syria, in Damascus, Aleppo, Hamma, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, in order to strengthen its forces. 

Russia is reportedly paying foreign mercenaries a monthly salary of between $300-$600 to fight.

Two days prior, on March 11, it was reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin would allow 16,000 volunteers from the Middle East to join the Russian-backed forces in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military warned again on Sunday of signs of preparation by Belarus to invade Ukraine.

"The direct involvement of Belarusian troops in the Russian armed aggression against Ukraine, contrary to the will of the military and the vast majority of the Belarusian people, will become a fatal mistake of Alexander Lukashenko," Ukraine's armed forces warned.