06.10.22 Mobilisation Review

Fraud Mobilisation: the authorities reported the draft of 200 thousand people in two weeks but don't know what to do with them

In just two weeks, at least 213,000 people in 53 regions of Russia were drafted, the "Important Stories" media and volunteers of the Conflict Intelligence Team calculated. There is no data on the other 32 regions, so the total figure may be higher. This means the number of servicemen in Russia has increased by almost a third. The campaign was held in the classic spirit of Soviet administrative whitewashing, where reasonable goals and methods are sacrificed to a desire to report to superiors as fast as possible. The military system was not prepared to "digest" so many new people, most of whom were not even fit for the service. At the same time, the main burden of mobilisation fell on the poor regions, which were hit the hardest by the first phase of the war.

The "Important Stories" media and the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) have analysed open-source data on the recruitment process and compared it to data on the total number of reservists in the region. The officials in 53 subjects of the Russian Federation willingly reported on the mobilisation process, while others remained silent; some even declared the secrecy of this information. On October 4th, Defense Minister Shoigu indirectly confirmed the estimates of "Important Stories" and CIT when he mentioned that more than 200 thousand people have already been drafted. It remains unclear whether mobilisation did not happen in other regions or whether the authorities of 53 provinces had falsified the number of recruited people.

The percentage of mobilised dramatically varies by region. Poorest regions were particularly affected by mobilisation. High draft rates were registered in Sevastopol (4% of the mobilisation reserve), Dagestan (2.6%), Kalmykia (2.2%), and Buryatia (3.7%). "We see a correlation between the ratio of drafted reserves and the region's poverty. There is a high number of recently served contract soldiers in these regions. The army is often one of the few employers and a social elevator in such regions," say CIT analysts. At the same time, the authorities try not to touch prosperous regions, fearing that the large-scale mobilisation there will cause a solid informational and protest effect.

The mobilisation leader is the Krasnoyarsk region, where, according to official statements, 28,000 servicemen (almost 5.5% of the reserves) are sent to the war. As a result, mobilisation has already affected the local labor market: agricultural enterprises complain that many tractor drivers and combine operators were drafted at the height of the harvesting season.

The regions most actively sending the reserves have already been strongly affected by the war. For example, at least 277 deaths have been confirmed in Dagestan, and the mortality rate among young men has doubled. The situation is causing severe discontent among the relatives of the drafted men and within the elite, as confirmed by the appeal to Vladimir Putin by Aina Gamzatova, wife and advisor to the Mufti of Dagestan. This discontent is amplified by the neighbouring "sovereign" Chechnya, whose head, Ramzan Kadyrov, has exempted the republic's residents from mobilisation. 

The situation in Buryatia is similar. Here the number of confirmed deaths in Ukraine was 259 (the number of confirmed deaths is supposed to correlate with the actual loss figures), and the mortality rate of young men has also almost doubled. According to the calculations of the "Free Buryatia" Foundation, the republic plans to mobilise at least another 3.6% of the reserves (6,400 people). If this proportion was the same across Russia, not 200,000, but about a million people would be sent to war.

The "stick" nature of mobilisation, which means the desire of regional administrations to report on its success as soon as possible, on the one hand, has led to a critical drop in its quality and, on the other, to the inability of the army system to handle the influx of new soldiers (to accommodate, feed, equip, and organise them.) "They don't have a clear command because the entire command staff will also be formed from the mobilised. For these 300,000, it would be necessary to find 30,000 regular serving officers. There are not that many available officers in Russia, and whoever is — are mostly at the front," the investigators believe.

The decaying Soviet mobilisation reserve system was dissolved in 2008, and a voluntary military reserve system was created instead in 2014 (during the first war in eastern Ukraine), analysts of the Royal United Defence Research Institute (RUSI) write. Former servicemen could sign a contract, receive a small salary, and participate in monthly training sessions and annual exercises; these reservists could be called up at any time, for a "special or threatening period," or in case of large-scale exercises and emergencies. 

Since 2016, the command has been reporting on reservists' participation in all major Russian exercises, and in 2021 Russian military and media began to mention the Russian Defence Ministry's new project — the Special Army Battle Reserve (SABR). For example, in September 2021, "Zvezda" weekly confidently declared that the Southern Military District had already recruited 38,000 SABR reservists. However, it was expected to take three years to form the new reserves. Yet, almost nothing has been known about the SABR since the war started. Perhaps a large number of these reservists were already involved in the first phase of the war, the "RUSI" analysts suggest. Given the lack of information on this subject, we cannot exclude that the project turned out to be inoperative or inactivate.

In any case, it is obvious that there is no established system for deploying the mobilisation reserve in Russia (just as there is no recorded system of military specialties), and certainly not a system suitable for this number of people.