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“Raising conscription age to affect two million people, Russia transitioning to military mode of existence,” says human rights activist

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On July 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law to raise the reserve age and facilitate additional military recruitment during the ongoing mobilization across the country. Men under 66, including retired individuals, can now be sent to war. Additionally, the State Duma Defense Committee approved an amendment raising the upper age limit of conscription by three years — from 27 to 30 years of age.

Alexei Tabalov, director of Shkola Prizyvnika (“Conscript School”), told The Insider that the age of conscription increase will impact two million Russians, shifting the country into a “military mode of existence.” According to Tabalov, the new laws will enable the state to expand the pool of potential contract soldiers, while the men now fighting in Ukraine will be able to stay at the front line even longer.

“Certainly, the adoption of this bill and other changes, such as increasing the deadline for being in the mobilization reserve, increasing the term of conscription for compulsory service — all this indicates that Russia is preparing for a protracted and long military confrontation not only with Ukraine, but also with the entire Western world. In general, the state and society are being shiften to a military mode of existence. Increasing the reserve age by five years allows the state to keep people at the front for longer periods, avoiding dismissals of those aged 50 and above, and also expands the pool of mobilized and potential contract soldiers.
The state knows that older privates are less effective at the front, but when the only choice they have is recruiting anyone at all, they need a pool of people to recruit from. The issue is not efficiency, but quantity. The main thing is to fill the trenches with infantrymen, and go from there. Hardly anyone is aware of the effectiveness of using 55-year-olds over 35-year-olds. I think they’re well aware of the fact that the younger a man is, the more he thinks of not going to war. By a more mature age, people become more malleable, more docile.”

Initially, Russia planned to shift the draft age: raising the upper limit from 27 to 30 and keeping the lower one at 18. However, on July 21, the head of the State Duma Committee on Defense, Andrei Kartapolov, announced that the draft age will be raised to 30, while the lower limit will remain unchanged at 18. He clarified that an official representative of the Ministry of Defense supported these changes at a recent Duma hearing. Despite the increase in the upper age, the annual quota of conscripts will not change, as the number of people drafted apparently remains constant, according to Kartapolov.

“This number will not increase in any way. It's just that the Ministry of Defense and military commissariats will have the opportunity to select the people who are most ready to serve in the army. No matter how old they are: 18, 21 or 25. The annual quota will not be increased in any way.”

Tabalov emphasized that raising the draft age will result in approximately two million more draftees. News outlet RBC had previously reported the same figures, citing Igor Efremov, a researcher at the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy. Even before the law was signed, Efremov argued that expanding the draft age boundaries would result in two million more people being drafted compared to retaining the framework from 18 to 27 years old.

Based on current population statistics in 2022 (excluding migration from 2022), there are approximately 6.78 million potential conscripts. By 2024, this number is expected to reach 6.8 million, and each year thereafter, the number of conscripts will increase by about 100 thousand people, according to Efremov. If the draft age is increased to 30 years in 2024, the number of potential conscripts that will amount to 9.14 million people, followed by 9.13 million in 2025, 9.16 million in 2026, 9.28 million in 2027, eventually growing to 9.9 million people by 2030. However, Efremov noted that there could be inaccuracies in reality:

“It is important to keep in mind here that these are estimates based on the gender and age composition of Russia's population from the current population count. Based on the results of the 2021 census, the population estimates were raised because the census revealed a significant previously unrecorded population. In reality, some of these added young men may be the result of an error — double counting in the census (at the place of registration and at the place of actual residence), and some may be undercounted migrants, among whom there are many foreign citizens not subject to conscription.”

According to demographer Alexei Raksha, as of the beginning of 2023, there were approximately 6.7 million men aged 21 to 29 in Russia, based on data from Russia’s government statistics agency, Rosstat. However, taking into account possible errors in the 2021 census data, a more accurate estimate would be around 6.5 million people. If the age limits were expanded to include those aged 18 to 29, the number of registered men would increase by 2.3 million officially, and approximately 2.2 million according to expert estimates.

Tabalov emphasized that this represents a significant increase in the number of potential conscripts:

“Increasing the draft’s age limit by three years would give the Defense Ministry access to 2 million more conscripts. I think that within these limits, we can also talk about those in the reserve. We are talking about a large number of people that will allow the Defense Ministry to expand the base for recruiting people both by mobilization and by contract.”

On July 24, amendments to Russia's law “On Military Duty and Military Service” were signed, raising the age limit for reservists and reserves in the armed forces by 5 years. Citizens with ranks such as soldiers, sailors, sergeants, petty officers, warrant officers, and midshipmen will now be in the reserve until they are 55 years old (previously up to 50 years). The age limit for being in the first category of the reserve was raised from 35 to 40 years, and in the second category from 45 to 50 years. The age of the “mobilization reserve” was also increased: for senior officers from 60 to 65 years, for junior officers from 55 to 60 years, and for those with other ranks from 45 to 55 years. However, senior army officers will remain in the reserve until the age of 70, as their age limit has not changed.

The Insider previously reported on how Russian conscripts and mobilized people are dodging the army and evading being sent to the front line in Ukraine. Personal accounts from the mobilized Russians themselves revealed various strategies they employed to avoid fighting: one faced a criminal case, another sought refuge in a psychiatric clinic, and a third, who originally fled from the war in Donbas, has been persistently refusing to leave his unit for months.

Since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has issued several decrees on military service and mobilization, including the introduction of “electronic draft notices” via Gosuslugi, Russia’s online government services portal. In September 2022, Vladimir Putin officially announced a “partial” mobilization in Russia. However, a decree to end it was never signed. In March this year, some Russian regions began handing out notices “to clarify military occupations and get [one’s] documents in order.” The list included the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District, Voronezh, Lipetsk, Yaroslavl and Penza regions. Pavel Chikov, head of the human rights organization Agora, stated that these notices were distributed in a total of 43 Russian regions.

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