Russia Recruits Soldiers From Mental Health Unit to Make Up Troop Shortfall

Russia is recruiting volunteers for Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine from a mental health unit in St. Petersburg, offering cash incentives and more to encourage people to fight.

The website of the Psychoneurological Dispensary No. 2 in St. Petersburg has a poster calling for military recruits for the volunteer battalions "Kronstadt", "Neva" and "Pavlovsk" on its homepage.

A woman talks with Russian soldiers
A woman talks with Russian soldiers in downtown Mariupol on April 12, 2022. Russia is recruiting volunteers for Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine on the website of a psychoneurological institute in St. Petersburg. ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images

According to the advert, which later appeared to have been removed, volunteers who sign contracts of at least six months are promised lump-sum payments, compensation for housing and communal services, the right to receive the status of a combat veteran and the right to enter universities without competition, and one-time material assistance.

An advertising banner also details how to pass a psychiatric examination for a permit to carry a weapon.

It's part of a wider recruitment drive for military recruits as Putin's war approaches its seventh month. Russian authorities are continuing to recruit contract workers en masse without announcing war mobilization.

Putin launched what he called a "special military operation" against Ukraine on February 24, but the leader has not announced mobilization. Declaring all-out war on Ukraine would allow Putin under Russian law to draft conscripts and mobilize reserve forces.

Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council published a report in July that found Russia is carrying out a "quiet mobilization" through its regional employment centers.

In a post on the Telegram messaging app, the center said it found job vacancies for more than 20,000 Russian contract workers.

The Center for Countering Disinformation suggested that these thousands of vacancies indicate the losses of the Russian army, and "the general problem with the recruitment of military personnel."

Previously, a search by Newsweek on a local recruiting website in May found more than a dozen job adverts hiring recruits in mobilization training and work in wartime.

Local media reported that authorities in St. Petersburg have also attempt to recruit the city's homeless population. The homelessness charity Nochlezhka said that employees from the Frunzensky district administration in Russia's second city had visited a shelter on August 17.

A Nochlezhka representative told Newsweek that officials tried to talk to those staying at the shelter and leave leaflets containing information about contract services.

The duty officer at the shelter didn't allow this and asked the officials to talk to the management before they ended up leaving.

Ukraine also said on Monday that Russia has begun to recruit sick and injured soldiers from hospital to replace its losses.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on its Facebook page that Russia was continuing with "forced mobilization" in Ukraine's occupied regions.

"In Donestsk, the Russian invaders found a 'new source' of replenishment of losses in manpower," the post read.

"So, recently, representatives of the Russian occupation army began to arrive at local hospitals in the city and forcefully 'discharge' patients.

"Men of military age with various diseases or injuries, including those wounded during hostilities who are undergoing treatment, fall under such an extract."

Newsweek has been unable to independently verify these claims and has reached out to Russia's foreign ministry for comment.

Ukraine's armed forces say about 49,800 Russian troops have been killed since the war began, although Russia has not confirmed those figures. On March 25, a Russian general told state media that 1,351 soldiers had been killed and 3,825 were wounded.