The despot leader has turned to volunteers, mercenaries and prisoners, as he desperately scrambles to turn the tide in his raging war in neighbouring Ukraine as the battle enters its seventh month. Putin’s troops have suffered several huge setbacks over the past five months after being met by fierce Ukrainian resistance that has seen them forced to retreat out of cities.
Moscow has not revealed any losses in the conflict since its first weeks, but Western officials and the Kyiv government say they number in the thousands.
The increase includes a 137,000 boost in the number of combat personnel to 1.15 million and will come into effect on January 1.
The last time Putin fixed the size of the Russian army was in November 2017, when the number of combat personnel was set at 1.01 million from a total armed forces headcount, including non-combatants, of 1.9 million.
But now Russia is understood to be offering amnesty to prisoners in exchange for a tour of duty.
War chiefs are also offering newly-recruited troops £640-a-month with free medical and dental care in a desperate attempt to plug the gaps left by the huge losses during the war.
It has also raised the age limit for service to 50.
According to sources, military hiring has stayed away from the bigger cities where support for the war is lower.
The Ministry of Defence said this week humiliating casualties are forcing Moscow to turn to “non-traditional recruitment”.
They said: “This includes recruiting personnel from Russian prisons for the Wagner Private Military Company.
“If true, this move likely indicates difficulties in replacing the significant numbers of Russian casualties.”
Russia has not said how many casualties it has suffered in Ukraine since the first weeks of the campaign, when it said 1,351 of its soldiers had been killed.
Western estimates say the actual number could be at least 10 times that, while Ukraine says it has killed or wounded at least 45,000 Russian troops since the conflict – which Moscow calls a special military operation – started on February 24.
Kyiv has also been reluctant to publish information on how many of its soldiers have died in the war, but on Monday the head of Ukraine’s armed forces said almost 9,000 service personnel had been killed in a rare update.
Putin’s decree did not say how the increase in headcount was to be achieved but instructed the government to assign the corresponding budget.
Russia had 900,000 active service personnel at the start of this year, and reserves of 2 million people with service within the past five years, according to an authoritative annual report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.