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US defense official: Russia struggling to recruit new soldiers, turning to prisons, older recruits

Russian soldiers. (Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin, Wikimedia Commons/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A senior U.S. defense official told reporters that Russia is struggling to find more soldiers to fight in Ukraine and said many recruits are older, in bad shape, and are receiving little training.

The defense official, who briefed reporters on August 29 on condition of anonymity, said Kremlin military recruiters are often looking to Russian prisons for new recruits to join the fight.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on August 25 to increase the size of the country’s army by some 10 percent, to 1.15 million servicemen, beginning in January 2023.

The U.S. official noted that Russia has experienced significant troop losses in six months following its invasion of Ukraine.

The official said the Pentagon believes that the effort to recruit significant new numbers of troops “is unlikely to succeed, as Russia has historically not met personnel and strength targets.”

“Russia has already begun trying to expand recruitment efforts,” the official said.

“They’ve done this in part by eliminating the upper age limit for new recruits, and also by recruiting of prisoners.”

“Many of these new recruits have been observed as older, unfit, and ill-trained,” the official said.

Earlier this month, U.S. Under-Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl estimated that 70,000-80,000 Russians had been killed or wounded in Ukraine since the invasion began on February 24.