Putin offers staggering sum for new recruits as Russia desperate to bolster shriveling forces

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Moscow is trying to bribe its citizens into signing up to serve in the military as Russian President Vladimir Putin watches his forces continue to shrivel up in Ukraine the longer the conflict lasts. 

“Putin has launched a full-on recruitment drive,” Rebekah Koffler, a strategic military intelligence analyst and the author of “Putin’s Playbook,” told Fox News Digital. 

An analysis from The Atlantic Council found that Russian armed forces have turned to the civilian population to help fundraise for additional equipment, including drones, thermal sights, vehicles and medicine, through a group called “All for Victory,” run by propagandist Vladimir Solovyov. 

The most surprising initiative Russian officials have pursued involves a 1 million ruble payment (around $11,000) for anyone who signs up for the “elite division.” Several pro-military accounts on Telegram amplified the initiative. 

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The Atlantic Council noted that this followed an earlier initiative that tried to hire contractors for around 600,000 rubles (around $6,600) in October. 

“Every Russian newspaper, from Izvestia to Moscow Young Communist is carrying an announcement about an ‘elite combat division’ of contract soldiers being recruited for the special military operation,” Koffler said.

Russia's recruitment drive

A screenshot of an official recruitment website for the Russian military. (Russian military recruitment site)

Koffler argued that “Putin is almost certainly preparing for what likely will be a very long conflict in Ukraine” with what amounts to “effectively” a “covert mobilization.” 

“As a former KGB operative, Putin is skilled in covert tactics and often uses them to his advantage, when he needs to obfuscate the real situation,” she said. “The reality is that these young men will be sent into a meat-grinder.”

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The U.K. Ministry of Defense said last month the number of Russia’s total “permanent” casualties – which includes those discharged due to injury – is as high as 150,000 to 190,000 since the conflict began, with total wounded taking the number to just under 300,000 – not including the Wagner Group and “prisoner battalions” that fought in Bakhmut. The ministry in February more specifically cited a figure of 40,000 to 60,000 dead.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Rostelecom, Russia’s largest telecommunications provider, in Moscow on June 7, 2023. (GAVRIIL GRIGOROV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

“Idite Lesom,” an anti-war initiative in the country of Georgia that seeks to help Russians dodge the military draft, reported on its Telegram channel that in several regions, including Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and the city of Irkutsk, have received text messages advertising “contract services.” 

Russia over the summer tried to lure troops from neighboring Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, with payments of over 450,000 rubles (around $5,000) offered as pop-up adds on the internet, Reuters reported. 

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Russia conscription

Russian army conscripts put on their uniform at the military registration and enlistment office in St. Petersburg, Russia, on April 22, 2014. Tens of thousands of Russian troops are massed on Ukraine’s eastern border in what NATO believes is a state of readiness to invade. (OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite Kazakhstan calling for peace and not backing Russia’s invasion, the ads urged Kazakhs to stand “shoulder to shoulder” and join the Russian military, which would provide an additional monthly salary of at least 190,000 rubles (around $2,000) a month and “undisclosed benefits.” 

Koffler revealed that some of these benefits include: 50% compensation for rent, including “complete renovations”; free transportation; psychological assistance; free college education; vacation time, to be used at their discretion; free gasoline; and “so on.” 

downed Russian military plane IL-22M

A view of debris of a downed Russian military plane, purportedly shot down by Wagner troops, in a field near Bugaevka, Voronezh Region, Russia, June 24, 2023. (Reuters Photo)

“Putin is promising the sky to these young men,” she said, warning that “the reality is that when there’s a high risk of dying in a combat zone, you aren’t going to need any of these enticing-sounding benefits.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the late founder and leader of Russia’s infamous Wagner mercenaries, had turned to recruiting criminals out of prison in a suicide squad-style arrangement to offer their freedom after surviving six months on the front. 

The prison initiative drew heavy criticism, but Prigozhin argued that if Russia did not use criminals and other methods, it would have to turn to the civilian population, whom he called “dandelion boys … whose milk on their lips is still wet.” 

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“Would you rather have the murderer going to war, or your family members?” he had famously, and now quite possibly prophetically, asked. Prigozhin died over the summer after his plane exploded while he was in exile following a failed attempted coup against the Russian military command. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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