Russia could expand draft age as soon as this spring - lawmaker

Putin gave his backing in December to defense ministry proposals to raise the age range for mandatory military service.

 Russian reservists recruited during the partial mobilisation of troops line up as they receive gear before departing to the zone of Russia-Ukraine conflict, in the Rostov region, Russia October 31, 2022. (photo credit: SERGEY PIVOVAROV/REUTERS)
Russian reservists recruited during the partial mobilisation of troops line up as they receive gear before departing to the zone of Russia-Ukraine conflict, in the Rostov region, Russia October 31, 2022.
(photo credit: SERGEY PIVOVAROV/REUTERS)

Russia could raise the upper age limit for citizens to be conscripted into the armed forces as soon as this spring, a senior lawmaker has said, as part of Moscow's plans to boost the number of Russian troops by 30%.

President Vladimir Putin gave his backing in December to defense ministry proposals to raise the age range for mandatory military service to cover Russian citizens aged 21-30, rather than the current range of 18-27.

The chairman of the Russian parliament's defense committee, Andrei Kartapolov, said in an interview with the official parliamentary newspaper that Russia could raise the upper age limit for conscription to 30 for this year's spring draft. But only after a one-to-three year "transition period" would the lower limit be raised from 18 to 21 years, Kartapolov said.

What are critics saying?

Critics said the idea of a transition period was a transparent attempt by Russian authorities to increase the number of Russians eligible to be called up for military service to plug massive manpower shortages resulting from heavy losses in the war in Ukraine.

 A Russian serviceman addresses reservists at a gathering point in the course of partial mobilization of troops, aimed to support the country's military campaign in Ukraine, in the town of Volzhsky in the Volgograd region, Russia September 28, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/STRINGER) A Russian serviceman addresses reservists at a gathering point in the course of partial mobilization of troops, aimed to support the country's military campaign in Ukraine, in the town of Volzhsky in the Volgograd region, Russia September 28, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)

Russia's armed forces are a mix of contracted soldiers and conscripts. Shoigu has outlined plans to increase the total number of combat personnel to 1.5 million from 1.15 million.

Asked about the possible changes, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that President Vladimir Putin "conceptually supported" raising the conscription age, but the exact details were up to the defense ministry to work out.

Conscripts as part of the war effort

The role of conscripts in Ukraine came under intense focus soon after Russia's invasion last February, with the defense ministry acknowledging some had been sent to fight there despite statements from Putin that this would not happen.

In September, Russia announced its first mobilization since World War II, calling up more than 300,000 former soldiers - including ex-conscripts - in an emergency draft to support the war in Ukraine. Western governments say Russia has lost tens of thousands of soldiers in nearly 11 months of fighting.