Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday the military planned to increase its personnel from 1 million to 1.5 million as it continues its now 10-month-long war in Ukraine.
Speaking at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Shoigu said the 1.5 million member military should include 695,000 volunteer contract soldiers. He did not give a date for when this goal would be achieved.
Putin had ordered an unpopular mobilization of 300,000 reservists back in September, half of whom were deployed to combat zones in Ukraine while the rest underwent training.
The call-up of those hundreds of thousands of conscripts came at a time when already some 80,000 Russian troops had been either wounded or killed in the war, according to Pentagon estimates, leading U.S. military experts like former Trump Administration National Security Adviser, retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to say, “I think they must really be at a breaking point.”
Shoigu said Wednesday the plans to form new military units in Western Russia were to counterbalance plans by Finland and Sweden to join NATO.
Meanwhile, Putin said in a speech Wednesday that the West had provoked the conflict in Ukraine as part of centuries-long efforts to weaken and eventually break up Russia—rhetoric Ukraine and its Western allies have rejected as they call Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine an unprovoked act of aggression.
The announcement from the Kremlin came the same day that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to the U.S. in his first trip outside his home nation since the war began. Zelensky was set to meet with President Biden and address Congress, coinciding with U.S. plans to send Ukraine a new defense assistance package that would include Patriot missile systems.