RUSSIAN army recruiters are trying to persuade homeless men to enlist as new recruits to fight in Ukraine as the war enters its seventh month, a charity has revealed.
Putin has been struggling to replenish his troops in Ukraine as Russia continues to suffer losses, but has so far refused to declare a full-blown mobilisation for fear an unpopular policy could backfire at home.
With its regular army stretched thinly, there is mounting evidence the Kremlin has launched its latest recruitment scheme – this time targeting the most vulnerable.
Nochlezhka, the country’s older charity providing assistance to homeless people, said military officials have targeted shelters in St Petersburgh’s Frunzensky district.
“[A recruiter] offered to hand out leaflets explaining that men were to be called to serve under contracts,” an unnamed source at Nochlezhka told the Rotunda news service.
“The duty officer [at the shelter] did not allow the leaflets to be handed out.”
Charity spokeswoman Tatyana Bazhenova said that Nochlezhka cannot help facilitate military recruitment for individuals using its shelters.
“We have always been out of religion and out of politics, so we can’t help in this matter,” she told Bumaga news channel.
On its Telegram channel, the St Petersburg news service said that officials within the city administration confirmed that a lone recruiter had used “his own initiative” to try and recruit the city’s homeless people.
Later, representatives contacted Nochlezhka again via email to discuss sharing information about distributing army leaflets about “contract service” to those in the charity’s shelter.
This comes amid reports that the Kremlin has been trying to covertly recruit troops within the country’s prisons to make up the manpower shortfall.
Hundreds of inmates have been approached in dozens of prisons across Russia, activists told CNN earlier this month.
The advocates said prisoners including drug offenders and murderers had been targeted.
Rotunda, meanwhile, reported that authorities in St Petersburg have been part of an initiative to recruit volunteers aged 19 to 59 to fight in Ukraine since the end of July.
A leaflet, shared by the news channel, calls for recruits to join: “Contact military service, My Choice!”.
The average monthly salary advertised is 200,00 roubles – £2,880. Volunteers with previous military experience have been offered the equivalent of £5,000 in signing-on bonuses.
The Russian Defense Ministry has previously denied that any “mobilisation activities” are taking place.
Last week, Putin signed a decree that would automatically increase the size of his army from 1.9 million to 2.04 million.
The strongman in May announced he was scrapping age limits for new troops – enabling people over the age of 40 to enlist the army.
The U.S. Department of Justice has estimated that Russia has suffered between 70,000 to 80,000 casualties since the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The BBC’s Russian service, meanwhile, reported that Moscow had lost more than 900 “elite” special forces soldiers in the fighting.