A Ukrainian man changes a window damaged in a missile strike in the city of Chuhuiv near Kharkiv on Saturday. At least three people were killed and lots of buildings destroyed, including a school and some residential buildings, in overnight Russian shelling. Photo by Sergey Kozlov/EPA-EFE
July 16 (UPI) -- Russia is stepping up its military recruitment, which could come at a steep cost to the country well into the future, experts said Saturday as Russia's defense minister directed troops to "further intensify" the war in Ukraine.
The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., said in an analysis Saturday that Russia "has launched a large-scale drive to form volunteer battalions" from across the country with "new volunteer units being reported daily."
The new battalions are expected to each consist of around 400 men between the ages 18 and 60, who will be assigned to various jobs including motorized rifle units, tanks and naval infantry units, according to the think tank.
"Recruits are not required to have prior military service and will undergo only 30 days of training before deployment to Ukraine," the think tank wrote in its analysis.
"This drive will likely produce 'soldiers' of lower quality than the normal conscripts in the Russian army at close to professional-soldier prices."
The think tank noted that the recruitment effort "will likely be expensive" and that the salaries for new recruits generally start at around $3,000 per month per soldier, or about $1.2 million per month per 400-man unit.
"If the effort generates 85 battalions each of 400 men it would bring an additional 34,000 volunteers into the fight at the cost of about $102 million per month in salary alone," the think tank wrote.
"Considering that the 30 days of training the volunteers will receive before entering combat will not produce combat-ready soldiers, that price is very high."
The recruits will likely receive veteran status and benefits for serving in Ukraine which will add to Russia's budget "for decades," according to the think tank.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu has directed troops to "further intensify" war efforts in Ukraine, The New York Times reported, citing a statement from the Defense Ministry.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry alleged in a statement to Telegram on Saturday that "Ukrainian nationalists refuse to be involved in operations in Donbas" and have abandoned their positions near Artyomovsk.
The Donbas region, which comprises the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk, has been largely held by pro-Russian separatists since Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized Luhansk and Donetsk as independent republics before the start of the invasion on Feb. 24.
Experts have said Putin will try to annex the Donbas region into Russia in the coming months.
The British Defense Ministry, which has been providing intelligence updates throughout the war, said Saturday that Russian offensive operations "remain reduced in scope and scale, with fighting west of Lysychansk focused on Siversk and Bakhmut."
The British officials said that Russia's efforts remain reduced despite Russian claims to have entered the outskirts of the town of Siversk earlier in the week.
"Russia has previously made premature and false claims of success. This is likely at least in part aimed at demonstrating success to domestic audiences and to reinforce the morale of the fighting forces," the British Defense Ministry said.
"Ukrainian defense has been successful in repulsing Russian attacks since Lysychansk was ceded and the Ukrainian defensive line was shortened and straightened."
The British Defense Ministry said that Ukraine's strategic withdrawal from Lysychansk on July 3, the last Ukrainian stronghold in the Luhansk province, has allowed Ukraine to concentrate its forces and "has been instrumental in reducing Russia's momentum."
Still, missile strikes were reported in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk causing air alerts to be raised across most of Ukraine on Saturday.
Oleh Synehubov, the governor of the Kharkiv province, said in a statement to Telegram that a 70-year-old woman and two men in their 60s were killed during a rocket attack on the city of Chuhuiv in the Kharkiv region.
Three other people were hospitalized for their injuries, Synehubov said -- adding that a residential building and a school were among the structures destroyed and damaged. Russian forces also shelled Kharkiv and Izium but there were no casualties reported.
Valentyn Reznichenko, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk province, said in a statement on Telegram that 53 rockets were fired on the city of Nikopol on Saturday, killing at least two people.
A senior military official in the United States said during a press briefing on Friday that between 100 and 150 civilians have been killed by Russian military strikes in Ukraine.
"We assess that Russian forces are limited to incremental, if any, gains around the northern Donbas, held off by Ukrainian defenses," the senior official said.
"Russian forces continue to deploy indiscriminate artillery bombardment, along with air missile strikes."
A woman eats food given to her by volunteers at a food delivery station run by a Hare Krishna group in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 20, 2022. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo