Russia and Ukraine are tightening their conscription rules ahead of the spring hostilities

Russia and Ukraine have tightened recruitment rules ahead of a widely expected Ukrainian counterattack in the coming weeks.

In Moscow, parliament scrambled to pass legislation on Tuesday, making it harder for Russians to dodge conscription and preventing automatically registered conscripts from leaving the country.

In Ukraine, where men between the ages of 18 and 60 have been barred from leaving the country since Russia launched its all-out invasion last year, the government on Tuesday approved new rules allowing job centers to send summons anywhere in the country. Previously, summonses could only be delivered to men at their registered address, but tracing them proved difficult due to large-scale internal emigration as a result of the war.

The recruitment changes in both countries come amid continued Russian offensives and as Ukraine calls up and trains thousands of new soldiers for its counter-offensive after both sides suffered heavy losses on the eastern front.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the changes were aimed at improving the military registration system and “have nothing to do with mobilization”. In September last year, when Russia first began mobilizing recruits on the Ukrainian front, hundreds of thousands of people fled.

“The Kremlin does not believe that the changes will cause panic and a new wave of migration,” he added.

The Russian parliament adopted the legislative changes to the emergency measures on Tuesday, with many MPs complaining that they did not have time to read the text properly. However, no MPs voted against the changes, and only one abstained.

Russian recruits in training in Rostov. Western officials estimate that up to 220,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded in the fighting in Ukraine. © Arkady Budnitsky / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

In Russia, notices of conscription had to be delivered in person in advance at the address registered for conscription. Recent legislative changes make it possible for summons to be mailed via mail or digitally, and now the notice will be deemed formally received by the prospective summons a week after it is issued, whether or not it was actually received.

Once a Russian notice has been delivered, recruits are prohibited from leaving the country until they have visited the draft office. Those who do not show up within 20 days are prohibited from driving cars, taking loans and buying, selling or renting any property under long-term contracts.

The Russian changes apply to both the mobilization of the Ukrainian front and the regular conscription of men between the ages of 18 and 27, which takes place every six months. An electronic registry of persons required to complete military service will be created to replace folders at recruiting offices around the country that lack communications.

Russians can now be added to the army reserve without visiting the enlistment office in person – they will simply be informed of their change of status on their account page on a government portal. The police will have the right to pursue draft evaders, and government authorities, as well as employers, will be required to hand over people’s personal information to recruitment offices.

Ukrainian lawmakers have put forward ideas and introduced bills on sending subpoenas by a mobile app used for government services and creating a public registry for people who evade the draft. These ideas have not yet been approved.

Western officials estimate that up to 220,000 Russian soldiers were killed or wounded in the fighting, and there were more than 100,000 Ukrainian casualties.

Leaked US intelligence documents provide a further breakdown, suggesting that 43,000 Russian soldiers were killed and up to 180,000 wounded, while up to 17,500 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in action and 113,500 wounded.

Russian immigration poses a problem not only for its military but also for its workforce. About 500,000 Russians have fled the country on at least a more or less permanent basis since the start of the invasion, most of them men of fighting age.

“We are deeply concerned about the workforce deficit,” Russian Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov said in December. Four months later, he suggested that companies fill the gaps by hiring “mothers, people with disabilities, and youth.”

Additional reporting by John Paul Rathbone in London

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