Russia Tries to Entice Students to Join War and Make Up Army Shortfall  

Russian President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party has proposed granting academic leave to students participating in the war with Ukraine, a move that could entice that cohort to join the ongoing conflict as Moscow ramps up its recruitment drive.

Russia's governing party announced the initiative in a statement on its Telegram channel, saying that the move would increase students' social security and ensure they have the right to an education.

In recent months, Russian authorities have ramped up the recruitment of volunteers for the war, which began with the February 24 invasion but has been marked by successful counteroffensives by Ukrainian forces. Officials are continuing to recruit contract workers without announcing a war mobilization, a move that would allow Putin to draft conscripts and mobilize reserve forces under Russian law.

Artyom Metelev, a member of Putin's United Russia party, said in a Monday statement that the academic leave proposal was sent to Russia's Ministry of Education.

Since this past spring, students have been unable to take academic leave if they want to participate in what the Kremlin calls the "special military operation" in Ukraine, he said. This "limits their right to receive professional and higher education in absentia," he pointed out.

"We need to ensure that they receive an education and create an opportunity to take exams when they return home," Metelev said. "Now the fighters are defending the interests of the Motherland, but soon they will return, and many will choose peaceful work and study. And there shouldn't be any barriers."

He said, "We must continue to expand support measures."

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a museum and theater educational complex in Kaliningrad on September 1. His party has proposed granting academic leave to students participating in the war with Ukraine. ALEXEY MAISHEV/SPUTNIK/AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this month, Putin pledged that Russians who volunteer to fight in Ukraine will be guaranteed long vacations and job security. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti that Putin vowed to instruct the government to put a provision into law that would guarantee the jobs of those who volunteer to fight in Ukraine, as well as allowing them to take long breaks.

In St. Petersburg, Russian officials have been looking to recruit war volunteers from a mental health unit, offering cash incentives and more to encourage people to fight, according to an ad posted on the website of the Psychoneurological Dispensary No. 2 in the city.

Thousands of job vacancies for Russian contract workers have appeared at regional employment centers. Local media have reported that authorities in St. Petersburg have also attempted to recruit the city's homeless population to fight in Ukraine.

Last week, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov called for every Russian region to "self-mobilize" and send at least 1,000 volunteers to fight in Ukraine.

Newsweek has contacted Russia's Foreign Ministry for comment.