Be ‘a real man,’ Russia tells potential recruits as it looks to bolster armed forces
- Russia's Ministry of Defense has stepped up efforts to recruit men to fight in Ukraine.
- The ministry launched ad campaigns designed to appeal to Russian men and their sense of duty as it looks to bolster troop numbers for what could be a very protracted conflict in Ukraine.
- Advertising promoting the Russian armed forces have abounded on Russian social media sites, billboards and TV in recent days.
Russia's Ministry of Defense stepped up efforts to recruit men to fight in Ukraine, launching an emotive ad campaign appealing to Russian manhood as it looks to bolster troop numbers for what could be a very protracted conflict.
Advertising promoting the Russian armed forces have abounded on Russian social media sites, billboards and TV in recent days with campaign slogans such as "You're a real man. Be one" and "a man's life is a choice" as the ministry looks to recruit hundreds of thousands of troops.
The Ministry of Defense is pushing the message hard on its Telegram channel. On Sunday, it posted a video promoting "contract military service" which showed images of a child becoming a man, studying, watching a soccer match, getting married then before morphing into images of recruits signing up, training and going to war.
Underneath the video a caption said: "A man's life is a choice ... Every decision affects your fate and the fate of your loved ones. But today your choice can affect the fate of the country. Protect your future and the future of your children," according to a Google translation.
Another ad showed men in everyday jobs and situations and alternatively as soldiers, concluding with the phrase: "You're a real man. Be one." One ad, Reuters noted, invited men to sign a contract with the Russian defense ministry for a salary starting at 204,000 Russian rubles ($2,495) a month.
A hotline has been set up for potential recruits who have been promised high pay, social guarantees like help with housing, and "a secure future for the family."
The U.K.'s defense ministry noted Sunday that Russia had launched "a pervasive campaign" aimed at attracting new recruits.
"The new adverts appeal to potential recruits' masculine pride, appealing for 'real men', as well as highlighting the financial benefits of joining up," it said via Twitter. " Nonetheless, the ministry said it was highly unlikely that the campaign will attract the Russian defense ministry's reported target of 400,000 volunteers.
Regular Russian units, and the private military company called the Wagner Group, are now "competing for the limited pool of Russian fighting-age men," the U.K. ministry noted.
The authorities are almost certainly seeking to delay any new, overt mandatory mobilization for as long as possible to minimize domestic dissent, it added.
The Wagner Group had been allowed to recruit prisoners from Russian jails last year, with freedom offered to those who completed six months' service in the private military company fighting in Ukraine. That avenue to recruits was closed recently, however.
The public recruitment drive comes as both Russia and Ukraine prepare to step up the pace of fighting, with Kyiv expected to launch a counteroffensive imminently.
The war is now well into its second year with little signs of major defeats or victories for either side, as Russia tries to consolidate its hold on four territories in the east and south that it declared as "annexed" last year and as Ukraine tries to regain lost land.
Russia is trying desperately to avoid any more forced conscription. A partial mobilization announced last September prompted thousands of Russian men to flee the country as they looked to avoid the draft.
Now, however, there is a concerted effort to coax men into joining, and a conspicuous drive to promote those who have opted in to fighting in Ukraine.
On Sunday, the son of the Kremlin's high-profile spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed in an interview with a Moscow-based newspaper that he joined Russian mercenaries last year and fought in Ukraine for around six months.
In an article published by Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda on Sunday, 33-year-old Nikolai Peskov said that he served as an artilleryman in the Wagner Group, a private military company that is fighting alongside regular Russian units in Ukraine.
He served under an assumed name and said the decision to join Wagner fighters was his own initiative, but that his father — Russian President Vladimir Putin's press secretary — had supported his decision after some concerns, and had helped him contact the Wagner Group.
Nikolai Peskov said he considered it his "duty" to serve, saying "I just had to participate, I had to help everyone who was there. I couldn't sit on the sidelines and watch friends and other people go there," adding that other friends had gone to fight in Ukraine.
Peskov was awarded a medal for bravery but declined to say what courageous act he and his comrades had performed. The head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said on Telegram that he had been approached by Peskov senior who asked for his son to join the group.
Still, some commentators have expressed doubts that the son of a member of Russia's political elite would fight in Ukraine, or that Peskov junior had done so.
Reuters noted that in 2022, an associate of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny phoned up Nikolai Peskov and pretended to be a Russian military official. He demanded that Peskov junior report to a draft office but Nikolai Peskov told him that he would not be going anywhere and would solve the situation at a different level, according to a recording of the call posted online.
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