A wide-ranging advertising campaign appears to have been launched in Russia urging citizens to join the military.
It comes as the Russian armed forces have reportedly been suffering heavy losses and struggling to make progress in Ukraine more than a year after invading it.
The Defence Ministry in Moscow released a video appealing to Russians to give up their civilian jobs in favour of a contract with the military.
The video features a supermarket guard, a fitness instructor and a taxi driver – all apparently disillusioned with civilian life and finding fulfilment after joining the army.
The video promises a monthly salary of at least 204,000 roubles ($2,500; £2,000), four times Russia’s average.
Ukrainian propagandists were quick to subvert the ad, producing an edited version with the wording changed. The characters in the video are now against killing children and beheadings, and “don’t want to be held responsible for [President Vladimir] Putin’s war crimes”.
While the Russian version says “be a man”, the Ukrainian video responds “be a person” – in other words, don’t commit atrocities.
The Russian video is part of a wider campaign that has received generous airtime on state TV, and also appeared in the press.
On VKontakte, Russia’s most popular social network, the number of army ads has jumped sevenfold, according to research by independent website Novaya Gazeta.
The campaign in the media has run alongside army advertising in Russia’s streets.
“Impossible to understate just how ubiquitous this army recruitment drive is,” said one Twitter user in the Russian capital.
“It has completely taken over Moscow and you can barely go two minutes without seeing another poster.”
What the Ads Don’t Say
The recruitment drive is likely to have been prompted by the Russian military’s desperate need for new soldiers after more than a year of fighting in Ukraine.
According to leaked US documents, the Pentagon estimates Russian losses at between 189,500 and 223,000 casualties, with 35,500-43,000 men killed in action.
In September 2022, President Vladimir Putin announced “partial mobilisation”, which sought to recruit new soldiers regardless of whether they wanted to join the army, and led to a dip in his popularity.
This time, the authorities in Moscow seem keen to avoid openly declaring mobilisation.
“There is no talk in the Kremlin about a new wave of mobilisation,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on 21 April.
He was responding to a question about reports that students in the Russian capital have started receiving call-up papers.
Other ways of boosting army numbers which have been used by the Russian government include allowing the Wagner private military company to recruit mercenaries in prisons.
Also in April 2023, the Russian parliament made it easier to recruit new army members and much more difficult to avoid the draft by approving legislation to start serving call-up papers online.
Under a decree issued by President Putin in September 2022, those who sign up will not be able to leave the army until the war – officially known as the “special military operation” in Russia – is over.
Source : BBC News