For several weeks now, according to the BBC’s Russian-language service, more and more tenders have been opening for jobs in the armed forces, mostly for short-term contracts. In the Russian employment agency HeadHunter, there were 3,000 military vacancies in one month, three times more than in the whole of 2019. In another office, Superjob, the BBC even counted 18,000 such ads in one week.
The flood of vacancies indicates that the Russian Ministry of Defense is finding it difficult to find enough soldiers to relieve the army in Ukraine and compensate for the losses among Russian soldiers.
It is also striking that job advertisements look for people with specific military skills, such as gunners, tank drivers or radios. They are usually recruited through their own employment offices in the armed forces. It also mainly applies to contracts for three, six or twelve months, instead of the usual two to five years.
‘Behind the Ribbon’
The urgency is evident from the fact that BBC employees who responded to the ads were told they could stop by for an interview immediately. Candidates who are willing to act ‘behind the tape’ (Ukrainian border) can start working within a few weeks.
Monthly salary for contractors amounts, depending on their specialty, from 350 to 600 euros. But candidates willing to join the “military operation” in Ukraine can count on twice as much, plus additional fees. Russian soldiers who fought in Ukraine later will also be able to request free medical care and help find a home.
This is an attractive prospect, especially for ex-soldiers from remote areas of Russia where there is almost no work. But reports of heavy casualties among Russian troops in Ukraine appear to have made many Russians timid, though the Kremlin is anxiously trying to keep it a secret.
According to US defense expert Michael Koffman, the biggest problem is political in nature. As President Putin insists this is not a war but a ‘special military operation’, the Ministry of Defense must not deploy recruits to Ukraine.
According to Coffman, Putin should actually declare mobilization to address the shortage of troops, but he would recognize that it is indeed a war, which is much harder than the Kremlin wants to admit. It would also be very sensitive politically. Putin has always promised that no military troops – a new group of 135,000 was called up earlier this month – will be sent to Ukraine.
To avoid this, recruits are pressured in all sorts of ways to act as… contractor apply. Anyone who signs a two-year contract will be immediately released from military service, they promise. As bait, one interested person was also told that, by being sent to serve in Ukraine, he could take part in “the Victory Parade on Red Square”.