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Russian defense minister says mobilization complete with 300,000 summoned

Conscripts train at a ground range in the Rostov-on-Don region of southern Russia on Oct. 21. (Arkady Budnitsky/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
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Russia’s controversial mobilization to send reinforcements to fight in Ukraine is now complete, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin in a televised meeting Friday, with 300,000 summoned for duty — the precise number Putin had requested.

“We have stopped sending notices to people, and the task you set, 300,000 people, has been completed,” Shoigu told Putin in the meeting, which was clearly scripted. “No further measures are planned.”

According to Shoigu, 82,000 soldiers have been sent to the conflict zone in Ukraine, with half of those assigned to active-duty units, and others continuing to do combat training. “Over 1,300 government representatives, 27,000 entrepreneurs, and 13,000 volunteers were called up and joined the ranks; the average age of those mobilized is 35 years,” Shoigu added.

Officially, mobilization in Russia ends only once the president issues a decree, but such a document was not immediately published on official government websites Friday evening.

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Russians are paying careful attention to the details because little about the so-called “partial mobilization” had gone as planned, at least until Shoigu’s announcement that Putin’s exact target had been reached.

Faced with serious losses on the battlefield, including Russian troops being ousted from a large stretch of territory in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, which Russia had occupied for months, Putin announced the mobilization on Sept. 21, saying it was needed to restore the military’s depleted ranks.

The unpopular move was seen as an admission that the war in Ukraine was not going as planned and triggered a mass exodus of fighting-age men, with hundreds of thousands fleeing the country, primarily to neighboring Georgia and Kazakhstan. Flights were sold out; border crossings were jammed.

Russian military officials sought to calm the public, saying that only reservists with prior military service would be called for duty, but it was quickly apparent that the authorities could — and would — conscript virtually anyone.

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Hundreds of cases emerged of men who were medically unfit or otherwise legally exempt from service receiving summonses, and governors in many Russian regions complained bitterly of a botched process.

The public outcry prompted regional officials to admit the mistakes and allow several thousand wrongly drafted men to return home.

Responding to Shoigu on Friday, Putin acknowledged that the process had been problematic. “It’s necessary to draw the necessary conclusions and modernize the entire system of work of military registration and enlistment offices,” he said.

Putin also conceded that the war in Ukraine had shown a need for an overall change in the Russian military.

“Based on the experience of conducting a special military operation, we need to think over and make adjustments to the way we build all components of the armed forces, including the ground forces,” Putin said.

Both the Russian leader and military officials vowed that all mobilized men would undergo training and get proper equipment, but dozens of reports and video clips have emerged on social media over the past weeks showing the recruits lacking basic things like protective gear or food rations.

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Sometimes the newly minted soldiers ended up in the trenches just days after receiving a summons and with virtually no training. At least 44 mobilized Russians have already died in Ukraine, according to media reports and public obituaries.

At least 30 others died by suicide or from health issues in military units before engaging in hostilities, highlighting low morale and raising questions about whether Russian enlistment offices were adhering to health requirements in the recruitment process.