Russia is recruiting volunteer soldiers from a mental health department for Vladimir Putin’s ongoing war in Ukraine and is offering rewards for those who sign up, according to a poster posted online.
The advertisement, published on the website of Psychoneurological Pharmacy No. 2 in St. Petersburg, calls for military recruits for the Russian volunteer battalions Kronstadt, Neva and Pavlovsk.
The poster promises lump sum payments, housing benefits and community services to volunteers who sign contracts to join the battalions for at least six months. On Tuesday, the poster appeared to have been removed.
Russia is recruiting volunteer soldiers from a mental health department for Vladimir Putin’s ongoing war in Ukraine and is offering rewards for those who sign up, according to a poster posted online. Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen in Vladivostok on Tuesday
However, a user on Twitter posted a screenshot of the poster on the facility’s website. Another user shared a photo of what appears to be the same poster pinned to a board at her local clinic.
Other “perks” listed on the poster offered to the volunteers include the right to receive combat veteran status, the right to apply to “higher educational institutions” without competition, and a one-time material assistance.
According to Newsweek, another ad detailed how to pass a psychiatric evaluation to obtain a gun license from Russian authorities.
Andrey Zakharov, a Russian investigative reporter, posted a photo of the poster on Twitter. “That moment has come. On the website of Psychoneurological Pharmacy No. 2 in St. Petersburg, volunteers for the war with Ukraine are already being recruited,” he wrote. “Are they going to make a separate battalion out of the mentally unbalanced? Or will they mingle with convicts?”
The poster is the latest sign of desperation from the Kremlin as it continues to urge more recruits to sign up for the war in Ukraine.
This advertisement, published on the homepage of the Psychoneurological Pharmacy No. 2 in St. Petersburg, calls for military recruits for the Russian volunteer battalions “Kronstadt”, “Neva” and “Pavlovsk”.
It has been almost seven months since Putin first ordered his troops across the border in what he calls a “military special operation” on February 24.
Moscow audaciously expected to capture Kyiv within days and the whole country soon after. Instead, Putin’s troops are engaged in a protracted conflict against a fierce Ukrainian resistance.
Tens of thousands of Russian soldiers have been killed since February, while thousands of tanks and other military equipment have been destroyed or captured.
Despite a series of humiliating setbacks, the Russian tyrant has failed to declare an all-out war on Ukraine, which would allow Putin – under Russian law – to conscript conscripts and mobilize his vast reserve forces.
Instead, Moscow’s military is recruiting contractors, and a July report released by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council found that Russia is conducting “quiet mobilization” through its regional employment hubs, according to Newsweek.
As well as an apparent attempt to recruit soldiers from a psychiatric ward, local media have reported that authorities in St. Petersburg have previously attempted to get homeless people to sign up for the war.
There are also reports that Russia is trying to replace its losses with injured or sick soldiers from hospitals.
Last month, Putin ordered his military to recruit an additional 137,000 troops to replace the estimated 75,000 soldiers killed or wounded in Ukraine since the invasion began.
Firefighters clear the rubble of a building destroyed by the Russian missile attack in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine, 6 September 2022
Putin signed the presidential decree that would increase the number of armed forces to 2.39 million, including more than 1.15 million soldiers.
The Kremlin decree did not say whether the military will bolster its ranks by conscripting more conscripts, increasing the number of volunteer soldiers, or using a combination of both.
But the decree, which marks the first formal increase in the Russian army since 2014, points to the devastating casualties Ukrainian soldiers have inflicted on Russian troops.
Putin was forced to respond and increase 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 increase troop numbers, Russia has attracted more volunteers with promises of conscription bonuses of around £4,000, hired private military contractors and even offered some prisoners amnesty in exchange for military service.
This also comes amid reports that hundreds of Russian soldiers are refusing to fight and are trying to withdraw from the military.
Pictured: People wait for a bus at a bus stop with a billboard showing a Russian soldier with a slogan that reads ‘Honor the Hero of Russia’ September 5 in central Moscow
“We’re seeing a huge influx of people wanting to leave the war zone — those who have been serving for a long time and those who just recently signed a contract,” said Alexei Tabalov, a lawyer who heads the conscript school’s legal department.
Although the Russian Defense Ministry denies that any “mobilization activities” are taking place, the authorities appear to be pulling out all the stops to encourage recruitment.
Posters and advertisements for public transport in various regions proclaim “This is the job” and urge men to join the professional army. Authorities have set up mobile recruitment centers in some cities, including one at the site of a half-marathon in Siberia in May.
The regional administrations form “volunteer battalions”, which are advertised on state television. Business daily Kommersant counted at least 40 such facilities 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 is deploying a large new ground force called 3 from “volunteer battalions” to Ukraine.
Putin was forced to respond and increase troops because an estimated 75,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or injured since the Ukraine war began six months ago. Pictured: Russian soldiers during training exercises
However, complaints are also emerging in the media that some are not receiving their promised payments, although these reports cannot be independently verified.
Prisoner recruitment has taken place in seven regions over the past few weeks, Vladimir Osechkin, founder of prisoner rights group Gulagu.net, said, citing inmates and their families with whom his group had been in contact.
It’s not the first time the authorities have used such a tactic, as the Soviet Union used “prisoner battalions” during World War II.
Russia is not alone either. At the start of the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi promised amnesty to military veterans behind bars if they volunteered to fight, although it remains unclear if anything came of it.
All Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 are required to serve a year in the military, but a large proportion avoid enlistment for health reasons or grant university students a deferment. The proportion of men who avoid conscription is particularly high in Moscow and other large cities.
“The Kremlin is probably trying to shield the residents of the city of Moscow from the military’s recruitment campaign, which could lead to some social tensions,” said the think tank Institute for the Study of War.
Twice a year, in spring and autumn, the Russian military brings together conscripts. Putin ordered 134,500 conscripts to be called up during last spring’s draft.
In recent years, the Kremlin has emphasized increasing the proportion of volunteer contract soldiers in order to modernize the army and improve its readiness.
Before the Kremlin sent troops to Ukraine, the Russian military had over 400,000 contract soldiers, including 147,000 in the ground forces.
Military observers have noted that if the Ukraine campaign drags on, these numbers may clearly not be enough to sustain operations in Ukraine, which has the stated goal of building a multimillion-strong military.