Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu
© Sputnik / Alexei DanichevFILE PHOTO
Russia does not need to announce another wave of mobilization to strengthen its army ranks, even if it decides to establish a buffer zone in Kiev-controlled territories to prevent Ukraine from launching strikes on civilians, according to Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested earlier this month that Moscow could be forced to create "a cordon sanitaire" in Ukraine, to ensure the safety of Russian regions that often face deadly and indiscriminate artillery and drone attacks.

When asked on Tuesday if a new mobilization would be needed to fulfill such goal, Shoigu dismissed the suggestion as "complete stupidity."

Moscow conducted a partial military call-up in September 2022. Shoigu explained at the time that additional troops were needed to "stabilize the situation, protect new territories" and hold the front line, which stretched more than 1,000km. Since then, Russian officials have repeatedly dismissed claims of a looming new mobilization, fueled by increasingly aggressive draft practices in Ukraine.

Russian authorities have instead launched a large-scale recruitment campaign, encouraging people to enlist, with some 490,000 people signing agreements with the military or joining volunteer units in 2023 alone. President Putin said in December that around 1,500 people voluntarily join the military on a daily basis across the country.

"All recruitment plans for the army and the navy this year have been fulfilled," Shoigu said in December, adding that the overall size of the Russian armed forces stood at 1.15 million service personnel. The size of the country's military will increase to 1.5 million in 2024, which will include up to 745,000 contract troops.

In the meantime, authorities in Kiev have been looking for various ways to boost their draft numbers, amid reports of general unwillingness among Ukrainians to join the fight against Russia and a shortage of volunteers.

In January, Ukrainian media reported that fighting-age males were to be denied healthcare unless they reported for the draft. In February, a Ukrainian lawmaker suggested barring draft dodgers and their children from the nation's universities. There were also numerous videos circulating on Ukrainian social media which show the military using violence against men as they are being drafted.

The Russian military estimated Ukrainian combat losses at over 444,000 as of the end of February. Earlier the same month, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky claimed that 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in action, deviating from Kiev's usual policy not to report casualties. Western media pointed out that the figure was far lower than US estimates revealed in a series of leaks from the Pentagon last year.