The second Russian mobilisation

Rainer Pihlakas
Jan 27, 2023

The predicted Russian second wave of mobilisation likely won’t be announced, while covert mobilization is already occurring.Russia is likely going to use its conscripts on the Ukrainian front more than it has to date.It is unlikely that Russia would be able to properly equip a further 300,000 mobilised soldiers given the current issues it faces with military production.

Keywords: Mobilisation, Conscripts, Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), Ukraine, Russia, Conflict.

Warnings of a second Russian mobilisation

On January 19, 2023 a Russian source stated that Russian authorities are preparing for a second wave of mobilisation. A Russian citizen reportedly went to a military enlistment office in Krasnodar, a city in southern Russia bordering Crimea, to sign up as a volunteer, but officials there told him to ‘wait for the next mobilisation”. The military enlistment official told the man that the reasons for prohibiting him from signing up as a volunteer are “secret”.[1]

Earlier, on December 31, 2022 Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov appealed to Russian citizens in a New Year's address stating that he knew “for a fact” that the Kremlin had plans to close all Russia’s borders to men, declare martial law, and begin another wave of mobilisation in the coming weeks. Reznikov stated that Belarus borders will also be closed.[2] (Figure 1)

On the same day, Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian military recruitment offices in occupied Crimea had compiled lists of persons of unspecified citizenship to be mobilised during January 2023.[3]

On January 2, the Ukrainian Resistance Centre reported that Russian mobilisation efforts had not slowed, and that Russia will strengthen mobilisation measures and close Russian borders to isolate the country for an unspecified period.[4]

The Ukrainian General Staff reported on January 5 that the military-political leadership of Russia was taking measures to prevent the mass departure of conscription aged men from Russia before the next wave of mobilisation, which was expected in January 2023 and that a complete ban on crossing the state border for men of conscription age had not been ruled out.[5]

The Ukrainian Resistance Centre reported on January 5, that Russian forces and occupation officials were preparing for another wave of mobilisation in Russian-occupied Zaporizhia Oblast. The Resistance Centre also reported that Russian occupation officials had introduced new restrictions that require residents in Berdyansk and Melitopol to obtain permission from the local military commandant's offices in order to leave those cities.[6]

FIGURE 1. Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov appealing to Russian citizens in a 2023 New Year's address.

Russia continues to mobilise covertly

On October 31, 2022, Putin announced the completion of the first partial mobilisation, noting that he would discuss with lawyers whether a special decree on this is necessary.[7] Putin stated that 318,000 people had been mobilised in Russia, and that the target of 300,000 was exceeded in part thanks to volunteers.[8]

Despite the announcement, numerous Russian sources have since reported that Russian enlistment officers are continuing to mobilise men. Local Russian media have reported instances of men receiving mobilisation notices in Tyumen and St. Petersburg. On October 31, 2022, the same day Putin announced and end to the mobilisation, the Russian Central Military District (CMD) reportedly told journalists from a Russian outlet that the mobilisation would continue throughout Russia until Putin signed a decree officially ending it.[9]

Ukrainian Melitopol and Mariupol authorities also reported that Russian occupation authorities have already recruited 3,000 and continue to coerce 5,000 more Ukrainians into volunteer battalions and territorial defence units.[10]

Mobilisation efforts continue in St. Petersburg despite Putin’s announcement, albeit covertly. Residents have continued to receive mobilisation summonses by mail, including one summons that was received on December 19[11] almost two months after Putin’s announcement(Figure 2). On December 27, 2022, the Central Bank of the Russian Federation ordered its branches to send mobilisation summonses to all “male debtors” in their system and to present the male debtors with service contracts.[12]

Despite officially ending the mobilisation, Putin continues to create favourable conditions for its continuation. On December 30, he signed a decree that suspended the previous age limits for mobilisation in occupied territories. The decree also incentivised people with a police or military background to join the army, with a promise of higher rank than they had previously held.[13]

The continual evidence of ongoing covert mobilisation efforts may indicate that there will be no official announcement of a second wave of mobilisation because it is already occurring.

FIGURE 2. Summons received via mail in St. Petersburg on December 19.

On December 31, 2022, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced the completion and official end of its regular autumn 2022 conscription cycle having conscripted 120,000 into military service during that time. The Russian MoD considered it necessary to add that: "Citizens called up for military service are not involved in the special military operation in Ukraine, and conscripted servicemen who have served the established terms of military service are promptly dismissed and sent to their places of residence."[14]

Given Russia’s demonstrated ability to demagogue and create laws to legitimately carry out its plans. It is possible that Russia could keep the autumn 2022 conscripts in the field as a part of force generation efforts for the war in Ukraine after their yearlong conscription. Russia would likely legitimise this by using an existing Russian law that treats all former conscripts as reservists, and therefore eligible for mobilisation. The Kremlin may also deploy conscripts to Russian occupied Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk oblasts which it has declared part of the Russian Federation. In this case Russia would likely claim that the conscripts were being deployed within Russia’s borders for "defence and liberation of the motherland of Russia" not externally as part of "the special military operation in Ukraine".

Russia has a long tradition of relying on large numbers of military conscripts, such as during the Soviet-Afghan War which saw the deployment of 115,000 troops, the majority of whom were conscripts.

The use of conscripts in the invasion of Ukraine has long been a controversial issue that affects the Russian public’s attitude towards the war. On March 9, 2022, Russia's Defence Ministry acknowledged that some conscripts were taking part in the invasion, a fact that Vladimir Putin had denied on multiple occasions, saying only professional soldiers and officers had been deployed. The ministry admitted that some of them, serving in supply units, had been taken prisoner by the Ukrainian army.[15]

As of January 2023, the autumn conscripts have already received some basic training and been equipped with weapons and equipment. It will likely be very tempting for Russian leaders to fill some gaps on the front with this force. Given the worsening situation of manpower and Russian new legal status of the occupied territories as being within Russia, conscripts are likely to find themselves "defending and liberating Motherland Russia" in the near future.

FIGURE 3. Captured mobilised reservists of the Russian army in Ukraine in September 2022.


Regardless of numerous warnings of a second wave of mobilisation, emerging evidence of ongoing covert mobilisation efforts may indicate that there will be no official announcement of a second wave of mobilisation because the first wave never ended Russia had reportedly mobilised more than 300,000 soldiers by the end of October 2022, most of which have likely been deployed to the front, while some being trained and kept in reserve.

The Invasion of Ukrainian has already significantly drained Russia’s professional army, with estimated daily casualties of more than 1000 including wounded and killed. Given the casualty rate and operational progress to date, it is unlikely that the 300,000 mobilised men will be enough to achieve Putin’s goal of annexing large areas of eastern Ukraine and capturing strategically significant seaports.

Furthermore, Russia likely does not have sufficient quantities of modern weapons to equip another wave of mobilised personnel, with personnel from the first wave already having resorted to carrying soviet-era weapons, equipment and armour that offers little protection against modern munitions[16][17] (Figure 3). These assessments are supported by a report by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on January 23, which stated that newly arrived Russian personnel in Kherson oblast carried only small arms, bulletproof vests were worn only by a few soldiers and no heavy military equipment was sighted.[18] Putin has taken steps to increase military industrial production, however this will take time and any attempt to produce advanced weapons will be severely impacted by sanctions and the failure of Russian manufacturers to successfully source analogues for components such as advanced chipsets.

The ongoing gradual covert mobilisation likely better suits Russia’s equipment and weapons production capabilities and is less likely to provoke unrest among Russian citizens. We can expect that there will be no announcement of a second wave of mobilisation. Russia will likely be able to legally justify its use of conscripts in annexed territories to "defend and liberate Motherland Russia". This approach may prove less sustainable if reports of poor conditions, mistreatment, or high casualties spread within Russia. Given the already high casualties in Russia’s professional army, dwindling supplies of advanced weapons, resource restraints on military production. Putin is likely to deploy young conscripts to Ukraine, but that won’t stop Russians from losing more seized Ukrainian territory in the long run and the Russian public has to accept casualties in their ranks.


[1] О работе военкоматов от подписчика из Краснодара. Jan 2023. [Online]

[2] Звернення Міністра оборони України Олексія Резнікова до військовозобов‘язаних рф. Dec 2022. [Online]

[3] The operational update regarding the Russian invasion on 06.00, on December 31, 2022. Dec 2022. [Online]

[4] The Russians are preparing a mobilization in the south of Ukraine. Jan 2023. [Online]

[5] The operational update regarding the Russian invasion on 18.00, on January 5, 2023. Jan 2023. [Online]

[6] The occupiers are restricting the movement of residents of the temporarily occupied districts of the Zaporizhia region. Jan 2023. [Online]

[7] Путин объяснил отсутствие указа о завершении мобилизации. Oct 2022. [Online]

[8] Путин: в России мобилизовали 318 тысяч человек. Nov 2022. [Online]

[9] Завершена ли в Тюменской области частичная мобилизация? Отвечают власти. Oct 2022. [Online]

[10] В ефірі марафону «Єдині новини» розповів про ТЕРОР, який чинять окупанти до населення анексованих територій України. Nov 2022. [Online]

[11] В Питере рассылают новые повестки. Dec 2021. [Online]

[12] Должникам будут вручать повестки в отделениях банков. Dec 2021. [Online]

[13] Путин установил особенности приема на службу в органы МВД в новых регионах РФ до 2026 года. Jan 2023. [Online]

[14] Осенний призыв граждан на военную службу 2022 года завершен. Dec 2022. [Online]

[15] Russia acknowledges conscripts were part of Ukraine operation, some are POWs. Mar 2022. [Online] europe/russia-acknowledges-conscripts-were-part-ukraine-operation-some-taken-prisoner-2022-03-09/

[16] Russian conscripts sent into Ukraine with rusty AKs: Civilian reservists forced to join Putin's war machine are handed worn out weapons before heading to frontline. Sep 2022. [Online]

[17] Russian Army’s Lieutenant Colonel And Soldiers Surrendered In Kharkiv Region. Sep 2022. [Online]

[18] Situation update as of 6.00 a.m., 23h January, 2023. Jan 2023. [Online]

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