Top Russian official says military must expand to 1.5M personnel

A Russian soldier walks in front of the damaged Metallurgical Combine Azovstal plant, in Mariupol.
The Associated Press
A Russian soldier walks in front of the damaged Metallurgical Combine Azovstal plant, in Mariupol.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday announced the country plans to increase its military manpower to 1.5 million personnel.

Shoigu made the announcement during a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country’s top military leaders.

Such a move would significantly increase Russia’s military forces, which comprise about 1 million personnel.

It comes after Russia has faced losses on the battlefield in Ukraine in recent months, and as Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia is gearing up for a renewed winter offensive in the first few months of 2023.

“We always considered the Ukrainian people as brotherly, and I still think so,” Putin said at the meeting. “What’s going on is certainly a tragedy, but it’s not a result of our policy.”

Shoigu, who did not indicate when the planned increase would be completed, said the 1.5 million troops should include 695,000 volunteer contract soldiers.

In September, Putin announced a partial mobilization of Russia’s military, calling up to 300,000 reservists to bolster the country’s invasion of Ukraine. The announcement sparked widespread protests across the country, and the Russian Defense Ministry said soon afterward that citizens working in certain professions would be exempt from the draft.

Fighting is now largely focused in eastern Ukraine in places like Bakhmut, a city in the Donetsk region where Ukrainian troops for weeks have attempted to fend off the Russian efforts to control the territory Putin annexed this fall.

Moscow has also launched barrages of missile strikes that have landed across Ukraine, including in areas far from the front lines. The strikes have largely targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure to knock out power and water access as winter sets in.

The meeting of Russia’s top military brass on Wednesday came hours before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to arrive in the U.S. to meet with President Biden and address a joint session of Congress.

A Kremlin spokesperson earlier in the day warned against the U.S. expanding its weapons deliveries to Ukraine.

The Associated Press contributed.

Tags Biden Joe Biden russia Russia-Ukraine conflict Russia-Ukraine war sergei shoigu Sergei Shoigu ukraine Vladimir Putin Volodymyr Zelensky

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