Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the country’s military to increase its number of troops by 170,000, as Moscow’s war in Ukraine enters its 22nd month.
The increase would take the overall number of Russian military personnel to more than 2.2 million, including 1.32 million troops, according to the decree published by the Kremlin Friday.
Russia’s defense ministry said the move was in response to “growing threats to our country” including the war in Ukraine and “the continuing expansion of NATO.”
It said the increase would be implemented in stages through a recruitment drive, and that there were no plans for conscription or a new wave of mobilization.
Putin’s decree marked the second such expansion of the army since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
In August 2022, Putin ordered an increase of 137,000 troops by January 1, 2023, which put the military’s staffing at just over 2 million personnel, including 1.15 million troops.
The next month, Putin ordered the immediate “partial mobilization” of Russian citizens following a string of defeats that caused recriminations in Moscow. The mobilization meant citizens who were military reservists could be called up and that those with military experience were subject to conscription.
The mobilization led to angry demonstrations – particularly in Russia’s ethnic minority regions – and prompted hundreds of thousands to flee the country. It was suspended in November of that year after officials said the target of recruiting 300,000 personnel had been met.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said Friday that more than 452,000 people had been recruited to Russia’s military under contract from January 1 to December 1 2023.
But Russia’s casualty numbers remain shrouded in secrecy. In September 2022, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 5,937 troops had been killed in the war. The ministry has not published an update since.
Western intelligence assessments put the toll much higher. The United Kingdom defense ministry said in October it is likely that Russia has suffered between 150,000 and 190,000 permanent casualties, meaning killed or permanently wounded, since February 2022.
Putin’s latest decree comes as Russia’s war in Ukraine is set to enter its second winter, with both sides suffering heavy losses without making significant gains on the battlefield.
Ukraine’s top military commander Valery Zaluzhny said in an interview with The Economist magazine last month that the war had entered a “stalemate.”
He warned that without technological improvements “there will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough,” but instead an equilibrium of devastating losses and destruction.
Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky disagreed with Zaluzhny’s assessment, telling NBC “the situation is difficult” but denying that the war had reached a “stalemate.”
Ukraine, which imposed martial law in response to Russia’s full-scale invasion, is also attempting to enlist more troops. Earlier this year, the rules of registration were updated to include women. The measures, however, stopped short of full conscription.