What We Know About Russia's Annual Spring Draft

Each spring (in the U.S. at least), the NFL draft is on everyone's mind (via NFL). In Russia, though, another kind of draft takes place, in this case with much higher stakes. In light of Russian President Vladimir Putin's controversial 2022 invasion of Ukraine, this semi-annual conscription has new meaning. The Putin administration does claim, however, that these new recruits will not serve in Ukrainian hot spots. Nor is this current round of draftees related to the ongoing conflict at the time of this writing, according to Moscow (via Reuters).

Russia's conscription of young men to fight for their country is nothing new. It happens twice a year, once in the fall and once more in the spring. And according to Understanding War, it's at the core of how the Russian military functions. But Russian claims that these new recruits will not fight in Ukraine were met with skepticism from Western observers. Some also expect there may be resistance to this new round of conscription, as there was among Russian reserves at the start of the conflict.

The Russian military is hybrid

As Understanding War goes on to explain, the Russian military has long been a mix of conscripts — such as the young Russian men called up in the 2022 spring military draft — and professional soldiers. Conversely, the American military is all-volunteer, although young men ages 18 to 26 are required to register for a potential draft and could be called up for training and service until age 36 (per PBS).

Since around the turn of the 21st century, Russia has made moves to become less reliant on conscripts, but such recruits and reserve forces still make up the majority of Russian combat units, while professional and contract soldiers are sent on the riskiest and most dangerous missions. Sometimes drafting Russian men as young as 16, the semi-annual military conscription typically affects men aged 18 to 27, who are most often trained for up to two months before they are deployed, according to Understanding War.

Putin called up 134,500 Russian men

According to Daily Mail, President Vladimir Putin called up nearly 135,000 Russian young men into service in the spring 2022 Russian military draft that was announced in February. According to Reuters, a spokesman for Putin said these new recruits will be trained for up to five months and will not serve where Ukrainian resistance is especially fierce. Nevertheless, these new conscripts are expected to report to their assigned base of operation by late May 2022 (via Reuters).

Per Axios, though, current and previous claims from the Putin administration that new Russian draftees are not involved in the Ukrainian conflict were cast in doubt by the Russian Defense Ministry when it reported that the country's conscripts had been captured in Ukraine. Putin has ordered an investigation into the use of civilian draftees, and estimates of Russian casualties in the conflict range wildly, with some reaching 15,000 dead. The official word from the Kremlin, though, says only 1,351 Russian troops have been killed, with 3,825 forces injured.