Russian lawmakers have passed a bill removing upper age limits for those wishing to join the military, suggesting the country may be scrambling to bolster its depleted workforce amid its invasion from Ukraine.
Russian law currently allows any citizen between the ages of 18 and 40 to join the armed forces by signing a contract.
The bill, which was submitted to Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, last week and approved at its final reading on Wednesday, would remove the upper age limit for first draftees. It must now be signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to officially become law.
“Highly professional specialists are needed to use high-precision weapons and operate military weapons and equipment,” says a memo accompanying the bill.
The change would not apply to serving military members wishing to renew their military contract, who must still be under the age of 50.
The bill was introduced by Andrei Kartapolov, head of the State Duma defense committee and member of the ruling United Russia party, and his first deputy Andrei Krasov.
“We understand that in certain specialties, experience comes with age: at 40-50, [a person] has the richest experience that should be used for defense purposes,” Kartapolov Told the daily business of Vedomosti.
Around 400,000 contract soldiers currently serve in the Russian Armed Forces. About 130,000 soldiers are added to this number each year by conscripts, who are drafted into the Russian army every two years and can be legally deployed abroad after four months of military training.
Analysts say Russia may seek to ease requirements for contract soldiers in hopes of bolstering its numbers in Ukraine without resorting to potentially unpopular measures like mass mobilization.
“Given the model of the Russian armed forces, once you factor in casualties, they operate around their limit,” Nick Reynolds, land warfare expert at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, told the Moscow Times.
“If the Russians want to make serious progress from now on, it will have to be done with slow and methodical operations with a significant investment of resources and manpower.”