Moscow has begun a new campaign to encourage Russians to enlist in the armed forces and fight in Ukraine, despite the Kremlin having denied needing more recruits.
In an attempt to attract more volunteers to the front, Russian propaganda videos posted on social networks in the past few days are trying to appeal to Russian men through the narratives of patriotism, morality, and upward social mobility.
One of the videos, posted on December 14, features a young man who is choosing to fight instead of partying with his male friends and then surprises everyone by buying himself a car with the money he made from fighting on a military contract.
In another video, posted on December 15, the former girlfriend of a soldier is newly impressed with his courage and begs him to get back together with her. A further example shows a middle-aged man leaving a factory job that doesn’t pay him enough to sign a military contract and go to the front.
Another of the videos shows a group of 30-something, well-off Russian men loading a car as they are asked by elderly women where are they going. One of the men replies: “To Georgia. Forever.” When one woman spills a bag of groceries, the men just get into the car and leave, instead of helping, while younger Russian men rush to pick up the groceries. “The boys have left, the men stayed,” one of the elderly women concludes.
Many of the videos portray the war as an escape for men from the bleak daily reality of drinking vodka, poverty, and helplessness. Meanwhile, reports and complaints of shortages of provisions and equipment in the Russian military continue to emerge.
During a meeting with mothers of the mobilized in November, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that it was better to be killed fighting for the motherland than to drink oneself to death on vodka.
In late September, Putin announced a “partial” military mobilization which saw more than 300,000 people across Russia mobilized as its war in Ukraine failed to make progress. The exact number of Russian soldiers killed and injured fighting in Ukraine has not been made public.
Thousands of men have fled Russia in order to avoid being conscripted, and fears of a second mobilization in the New Year are mounting.
Earlier this month, addressing a news conference after a summit of Eurasian countries in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Putin attempted to reassure the public that there were no plans for additional mobilization.
Asked by a reporter what factors could call for a new round of mobilization, Putin said: “There are no such factors today, we are not discussing them. I told you, 300,000 were called up as part of the mobilization. Let me repeat once again 150,000 (have been deployed to Ukraine). Of those, a little more than half are in combat units.”
Questioned about reports of continuing military equipment shortages on the front lines, Putin said he was working closely with the Russian defense ministry and that the issue was being resolved.