Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered a major buildup of his country’s military forces, apparently to replenish troops lost in six months of war and prepare for a long and grueling fight in Ukraine.
The measure would increase the number of soldiers by 137,000, or 13%, to 1.15 million by the end of the year.
The total number of members of the Russian armed forces in general would then amount to 2.04 million, including the 1.15 million soldiers.RELATED
Putin’s decree does not specify whether the expansion will be achieved by expanding compulsory military service, recruiting more volunteers, or both. But some Russian military analysts predicted a higher number of volunteers due to the Kremlin’s concerns about a potential national backlash to an extension of military service.
Meanwhile, fueling fears of a nuclear catastrophe, the Zaporizhia power plant was briefly out of service due to damage caused by a transmission line fire. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the plant’s backup diesel generators had to come on in order to provide the power needed to operate the plant.
“Russia has brought Ukraine and all Europeans to the brink of a radiation disaster,” Zelenskyy charged in his late-night speech.
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Meanwhile, the death toll from a Russian missile attack on and around a train station has risen to 25, Ukrainian authorities said. Russia said its target was a military train and claimed to have killed more than 200 Ukrainian reservists in the attack on Wednesday, Ukraine’s Independence Day.
Western estimates of Russians who have died in the war in Ukraine range from roughly 15,000 to more than 20,000, more than the losses suffered by the Soviet Union during 10 years of war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon said last week that up to 80,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded, undermining Moscow’s ability to carry out large-scale offensives.
The Kremlin has said that only volunteer soldiers are taking part in the Ukraine war. But finding more willing soldiers could be difficult, and military analysts say planned troop levels may still be insufficient to sustain operations.
Retired Russian Colonel Viktor Murakhovsky said in comments published by Moscow-based online news outlet RBC that the Kremlin will likely try to continue to rely on volunteers, predicting that will account for most of the increase.
Another Russian military expert, Alexei Leonkov, stated that training in complex modern weapons normally takes three years. And conscripts serve only one year.
“Compulsory military service will not help with that, so there will be no increase in the number of conscripts,” Leonkov said, according to a report by the state news agency RIA Novosti.
Fears of a Chernobyl-like disaster have been growing in Ukraine due to fighting around the Russian-occupied Zaporizhia plant. Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of bombing the site.
In Thursday’s incident, the plant was cut off from the power grid, causing a blackout across the region, according to authorities. The complex was later reconnected to the grid, a Russian-appointed local official said.
Zelenskyy said that Ukraine would have faced a radiation accident if the diesel generators had not been turned on.
He blamed the fire that damaged the transmission line on Russian attacks. But the Russian-installed Zaporizhia regional governor, Yevgeny Balitsky, blamed a Ukrainian attack.
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