Russia 'recruited volunteer soldiers from a mental health unit'

Russia ‘recruited volunteer soldiers from a mental health unit’ for its war in Ukraine

  • Advert was displayed on the website of St. Petersburg’s Psychoneurological Dispensary No. 2, and called for volunteers to join Russia’s volunteer battalions 
  • The poster promises volunteers ‘perks’ if they sign a contract for six months
  • Last month, Putin ordered his military to recruit another 137,000 troops
  • Order was given amid reports that 75,000 soldiers have been killed in Ukraine 

Russia is recruiting volunteer soldiers from a mental health unit for Vladimir Putin’s on-going war in Ukraine, and is offering rewards for those who sign up, according to a poster pictured online.

The advertisement, posted to the homepage of St. Petersburg’s Psychoneurological Dispensary No. 2, is calling for military recruits for Russia’s volunteer battalions ‘Kronstadt’, ‘Neva’ and ‘Pavlovsk’.

The poster promises volunteers who sign contracts to join the battalions for at least six months lump-sum payments, housing compensation and communal services. As of Tuesday, the poster appeared to have been taken down.

Russia is recruiting volunteer soldiers from a mental health unit for Vladimir Putin’s on-going war in Ukraine, and is offering rewards for those who sign up, according to a poster pictured online. Pictured: Russian president Vladimir Putin is seen in Vladivostok on Tuesday

However, one user on Twitter posted a screenshot of the poster on the facility’s website. Another user shared a photograph of what appeared to be the same poster pinned to a board in what they said was their local clinic.

Other ‘perks’ listed on the poster offered to volunteers included the right to receive combat veteran status, the right to apply to ‘higher education institutions’ without competition, and one-time material assistance.

According to Newsweek, another advert detailed how to pass a psychiatric examination in order to be handed a weapons permit by Russian authorities.

Andrey Zakharov, a Russian investigative reporter, posted a photo of the poster to Twitter. ‘This moment has arrived. Volunteers for the war with Ukraine are already being recruited on the website of the Psychoneurological Dispensary № 2 in St. Petersburg,’ he wrote. ‘Will they make a separate battalion out of the mentally unbalanced? Or will they mix with convicts?’ 

The poster is the latest sign of desperation from the Kremlin as it continues to push for more recruits to sign up to fight in the war in Ukraine.

This advertisement, posted to the homepage of St. Petersburg’s Psychoneurological Dispensary No. 2, is calling for military recruits for Russia’s volunteer battalions ‘Kronstadt’, ‘Neva’ and ‘Pavlovsk’

It is approaching seven months since Putin first ordered his troops across the border on February 24 in what he calls a ‘special military operation’.

Moscow brazenly expected to seize Kyiv in a matter of days, and soon after the whole country. Instead, Putin’s forces have found themselves fighting a protracted conflict against a fierce Ukrainian resistance.

Since February, tens of thousands of Russian soldiers have been killed, while thousands of tanks and other military hardware have been destroyed or captured.

Despite facing a series of humiliating setbacks, the Russian tyrant has not declared all-out war on Ukraine, which would allow Putin – under Russian law – to draft conscripts and mobilise his huge reserve forces.

Instead, Moscow’s military is recruiting contractors, and a July report published by Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council found Russia is carrying out a ‘quiet mobilisation’ through its regional employment centres, according to Newsweek.

In addition to apparently trying to recruit soldiers from a mental health unit, local media has reported authorities in St. Petersburg have previously attempted to get homeless people to sign up to fight in the war.

There have also been reports of Russia trying to replace its losses with injured or sick soldiers from hospitals. 

Last month, Putin ordered his military to recruit another 137,000 troops to replace the estimated 75,000 soldiers who have been killed or wounded since the invasion of Ukraine began.

Firefighters douse the rubble of a building destroyed by Russia’s missile strike in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine on September 6, 2022

Putin signed the presidential decree which seeks to boost the number of armed forces’ personnel to 2.39 million, including more than 1.15 million soldiers.

The Kremlin’s decree did not explain whether the military will increase its ranks by drafting a larger number of conscripts, increasing the number of volunteer soldiers or using a combination of both. 

But the decree, which marks the first formal increase to Russia’s army since 2014, signifies the devastating losses inflicted on Russian troops by Ukrainian soldiers.

Putin has been forced to react and boost the number of troops because an estimated 75,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or injured since the Ukraine war began six months ago.

In an effort to bolster the number of troops, Russia has been attracting more volunteers with the promise of enlistment bonuses of around £4,000, engaging private military contractors and even offering amnesty to some prisoners in exchange for a tour of military duty.

This also is happening amid reports that hundreds of Russian soldiers are refusing to fight and trying to quit the military.

Pictured: People wait for a bus at a bus stop with a billboard showing a Russian soldier with a slogan which reads as : ‘Glory to the Heroes of Russia’ in central Moscow on September 5

‘We’re seeing a huge outflow of people who want to leave the war zone — those who have been serving for a long time and those who have signed a contract just recently,’ said Alexei Tabalov, a lawyer who runs the Conscript’s School legal aid group.

Although the Russian Defense Ministry denies that any ‘mobilisation activities’ are taking place, authorities seem to be pulling out all the stops to bolster enlistment.

Billboards and public transit ads in various regions proclaim, ‘This is The Job,’ urging men to join the professional army. Authorities have set up mobile recruiting centers in some cities, including one at the site of a half marathon in Siberia in May.

Regional administrations are forming ‘volunteer battalions’ that are promoted on state television. The business daily Kommersant counted at least 40 such entities in 20 regions, with officials promising volunteers monthly salaries ranging from the equivalent of £1,821 to nearly £4,659, plus plus bonuses.

The British military said earlier this month that Russia had formed a major new ground force called the 3rd Army Corps from ‘volunteer battalions,’ seeking men up to age 50 and requiring only a middle-school education, while offering ‘lucrative cash bonuses’ once they are deployed to Ukraine. 

Putin has been forced to react and boost the number of troops because an estimated 75,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or injured since the Ukraine war began six months ago. Pictured: Russian soldiers in training exercises 

But complaints also are surfacing in the media that some aren’t getting their promised payments, although those reports can’t be independently verified.  

The recruitment of prisoners has been going on in recent weeks in as many as seven regions, said Vladimir Osechkin, founder of the Gulagu.net prisoner rights group, citing inmates and their relatives that his group had contacted.

It’s not the first time that authorities have used such a tactic, with the Soviet Union employing ‘prisoner battalions’ during World War II.

Nor is Russia alone. Early in the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised amnesty to military veterans behind bars if they volunteered to fight, although it remains unclear if anything came out of it.

All Russian men aged 18-27 must serve one year in the military, but a large share avoid the draft for health reasons or deferments granted to university students. The share of men who avoid the draft is particularly big in Moscow and other major cities.

‘The Kremlin is likely attempting to shield Moscow City residents from the military recruitment campaign, which may lead to some social tensions,’ said the think tank  Institute for the Study of War.

The Russian military rounds up draftees twice a year, during the spring and in the fall. Putin ordered the drafting of 134,500 conscripts during the latest spring draft.

In recent years, the Kremlin has emphasised increasing the share of volunteer contract soldiers as it sought to modernise the army and improve its readiness.

Before the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine, the Russian military had over 400,000 contract soldiers, including 147,000 in the ground forces.

Military observers have noted that if the campaign in Ukraine drags on, those numbers could be clearly insufficient to sustain the operations in Ukraine, which has declared a goal of forming a million-strong military.

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