Russia turns to trucks and high wages to court voluntary soldiers


In the Russian city of Rostov, soldiers in camouflage and black masks display their weapons and offer recruitment contracts.

The Russian army, which is looking for contract soldiers for what it calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine, uses mobile recruiting trucks to recruit volunteers and offers nearly $2,700 a month in incentive.

A special unit on Saturday stationed such a truck in a central park in the southern Russian city of Rostov and removed the sides to reveal a mobile office.

Soldiers in camouflage and black masks showed their weapons to interested passers-by and handed out color brochures entitled “Military Service on Contract – A Real Man’s Choice”.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine are disclosing their military losses, which are estimated at tens of thousands on both sides by Western intelligence agencies.

Moscow hasn’t updated the official death toll since March 25, when it said 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed and 3,825 injured. The Kremlin said last week there was no discussion of a nationwide mobilization to bolster its troops.

But the recruitment campaign shows that Moscow needs more men. The officer in charge of the Rostov truck said Russians and foreigners aged 18 to 60 with at least a high school education are eligible.

“Patriotic citizens are choosing to sign contracts for three or six months to participate in the special military operation,” said Major Sergei Ardashev, promising training for all.

The minimum monthly wage offered is 160,000 rubles ($2,700), which is nearly three times the national average.

One potential recruit was musician Viktor Yakunin, who said he had always been drawn to the idea of ​​military service and was now collecting the necessary documents.

“I would like to serve in the airborne troops,” he said. “My parents raised me from childhood to love my homeland, to protect the Russian world. I believe the strength is with us.”

In the truck, Yakunin sat down with Ardashev, who told him that the next step would be a mental examination. If he did, there would be a physical test of speed, strength and stamina.

If all went well, Yakunin would “arrive a military unit, enroll in a specific division, [and] from that moment on you start in military service”.

Outside, young men, some with families, looked at a temporary exhibit of photos of official heroes of the conflict, next to a large sign that read “Tradition of Victory.”

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