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Putin’s Nightmare: Russia’s Soldier Shortage Is So Bad That It Is Recruiting in Homeless Shelters

Russian artillery firing in Ukraine. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Clearly, Putin’s military is having all sorts of problems trying to do anything in Ukraine right now. And things are about to get far worse, as Russia’s armed forces seem to be suffering from a massive manpower crisis: 

The Russia’s military is recruiting soldiers in homeless shelters and seriously considering enlisting convicted criminals to fight against Ukraine amid a significant shortage of troops, according to reports.

A US official, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday that intel indicates that Russia is suffering from “severe manpower shortages” in Ukraine.

Moscow has not publicly revealed since March 25 how many Russian soldiers have died during the unprovoked invasion, but unverified estimates range from 15,000 to 49,000 soldiers killed.

Last Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to increase the size of Russia’s armed forces from 1.9 million to 2.04 million, per Reuters. And it appears to reach that number, and to make up for battlefield losses, Russia is engaging in unconventional recruitment tactics.

The US official, citing intelligence, told Reuters that “credible” evidence suggests that the Russian defense ministry is likely to begin enlisting convicted criminals in Ukraine to bolster the army.

The criminals would be offered pardons and financial compensation in exchange for fighting for Russia, the official said, per Reuters.

The official also told Reuters that intel suggests the Russia’s defense ministry is looking to recruit contract service members to compensate for shortages by “compelling wounded soldiers to re-enter combat, acquiring personnel from private security companies, and paying bonuses to conscripts.”

According to Newsweek, officials in St. Petersburg left leaflets about contract services at a homeless shelter as part of the recruitment drive.

The homelessness charity Nochlezhka told Newsweek that officials from the Frunzensky district administration in St. Petersburg visited one of their shelters on August 17 to speak to people staying there about signing up to fight.

A spokesperson for the charity told Newsweek that a duty officer at the shelter informed the officials that this was not allowed, prompting them to leave.

T-90 Tank from Russia

Russian T-90 Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

“Nochlezhka is not ready to be an intermediary in this campaign; therefore, we informed them they could not distribute their materials,” the spokesperson said. “Afterwards, they left our shelter.”

Joshua Zitser is a Senior News Reporter at Insider’s London office (where this first appeared). His writing has also appeared in The Times, The Telegraph, The Spectator, Independent, WIRED, and more. Joshua’s podcast documentary, “Handed Down: A Look Into Transgenerational Trauma,” was nominated for a Mind Media Award and an IRN Award.

Written By

Joshua Zitser is a Senior News Reporter at Insider's London office.