Russia is likely preparing for a wider military conscription as its war against Ukraine grinds into a second year, according to United Kingdom intelligence.
The United Kingdom's Defense Ministry noted in a tweeted intelligence update on Saturday that members of the Russian Duma, the country's legislature, introduced a bill on Monday to shift the age range for Russian men to be drafted from 18 to 27 years old to 21 to 30 years old. It said the bill will likely pass and become effective in January.
The ministry said Russia officially bans draftees from its activities in Ukraine, but at least hundreds of Russian people have likely served through administrative mismanagement or after being coerced to sign contracts.
The ministry believes Russian authorities likely want to change the age bracket as many men ages 18 to 21 claim an exemption to conscription through their enrollment in higher education. Raising the age range would ensure many of these students eventually need to serve in the Russian military, it said.
The Moscow Times reported that the bill would immediately raise the maximum age for conscription to 30 and gradually raise the minimum age to 21 by 2026. The bill’s authors noted that it would guarantee higher education for the conscripts and save money from the budget for medical exams for younger recruits who are less likely to serve on a battlefield.
But the outlet reported that critics have said the bill is meant to account for Russia’s increasing losses in Ukraine by increasing eligibility for the military.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization of as many as 300,000 reservists in September to replace depleted forces, the first time that such a call-up had been issued in Russia since World War II. The order led to numerous protests throughout the country, leading officials to declare some citizens in certain occupations exempt from the draft.
The Times reported the Putin backed a proposal from the Russian defense minister in December to increase the number of Russian military personnel from 1.15 million to 1.5 million.
The outlet noted that a Russian law preventing conscripts from being sent outside Russia’s borders would not apply to the four regions of Ukraine that Putin has annexed, considering it Russian territory.
The UK defense ministry said Russia has continually held “call-up cycles” twice per year since the time of the Soviet Union separate from the September partial mobilization.