Russia raises age limit for conscription by three years in bid to expand military

Russian conscripts called up for military service at a recruitment centre in Simferopol, Crimea, on April 25, 2023 (REUTERS)
Russian conscripts called up for military service at a recruitment centre in Simferopol, Crimea, on April 25, 2023 (REUTERS)

Russia has raised the maximum age at which men can be conscripted from 27 to 30 years, dramatically increasing the number of young men who will be liable for compulsory military service.

Last year, the nation announced a plan to boost its professional and conscripted combat personnel by more than 30 per cent to 1.5 million - an ambitious task made harder by its heavy but undisclosed casualties in Ukraine.

On Tuesday, Russia’s lower house of parliament voted through new legislation, which comes into effect on January 1.

It will mean men will be required to carry out a year of military service, or equivalent training during higher education, between the ages of 18 and 30, rather than 18 and 27.

The law also bans men from leaving Russia from the day they are summoned to a conscription office. In April, legislation was passed allowing conscription summonses to be served online instead of in person.

Compulsory military service has long been a sensitive issue in Russia, where many men go to great lengths to avoid being handed conscription papers during the twice-yearly call-up periods.

Conscripts cannot legally be deployed to fight outside Russia and were in theory exempted from a limited mobilisation last autumn that gathered at least 300,000 men with previous military training to fight in Ukraine - although some conscripts were sent to the front in error.

However, Russia unilaterally claimed four Ukrainian regions as its own last September, in a move not recognised internationally, fuelling fears that raw conscripts could now legally be sent into battle.

Separately, the legislation passed on Tuesday gives Russian governors the power to set up regional paramilitary units during periods of mobilisation or martial law.

These units would be funded and armed by the state and given the right to shoot down drones, fight enemy sabotage groups and conduct counter-terrorist operations.

Andrei Kartapolov, a former general who chairs the defence committee of the lower house, the State Duma, said the changes would formalise the creation of militias.

The topic has gained importance since an abortive armed mutiny last month by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner mercenary force, which is largely funded by the state but fought in Ukraine as a unit with broad autonomy.

“The people’s militia - how it will operate, who it will consist is absolutely clear and understandable,” Mr Kartapolov told lawmakers.