Russia is struggling to find more soldiers to fight in Ukraine, even tapping prisons, and many new recruits are older, in poor shape and lack training, a senior US defence official said on Monday.
The official pointed to Russian President Vladimir Putin's decree last Thursday to increase the headcount of the country's army by about 10 per cent to 1.15 million servicemen starting in January next year.
After experiencing significant setbacks and heavy troop losses in the six months after invading Ukraine, the Pentagon believes that “this effort is unlikely to succeed, as Russia has historically not met personnel and strength targets”, the official said.
“Russia has already begun trying to expand recruitment efforts,” the official told journalists on condition of anonymity.
“They've done this in part by eliminating the upper age limit for new recruits and also by recruiting of prisoners.
“Many of these new recruits have been observed as older, unfit and ill-trained.”
The Pentagon's conclusion is that any more recruits added may not effectively expand overall combat power by the end of the year, the official said.
Even before the war, Russia's armed forces may have been 150,000 short of their stated goal of one million, the official said.
In early August, US Under Secretary of Defence Colin Kahl estimated that between 70,0000 to 80,000 Russians had been killed or wounded in Ukraine since the invasion began on February 24.