Since the conflict in East Ukraine began, Russia has denied that its military forces were involved inside Ukrainian territory. For the most part, this may have been technically true. Most of the fighters seems to have been regular army that temporarily resigned their regular military status, and other mercenaries. Russia has used mercenaries in Syria as well. It is a time honored tradition for the Kremlin. It is better to maintain plausible deniability than to open yourself up for criticism.
But Russia is also building an above board group of military units that are filled with ‘contract soldiers.’ Russian Vladimir Putin signed into law last year legislation allowing for this concept.
According to the Defense Ministry’s official guidelines for foreign recruitment, any foreigner between the ages of 18 and 30 can enlist in the Russian military under a five-year contract, provided they can present proof from a Russian institution that they speak Russian, have no criminal record, and can pass a series of professional, psychological and medical exams administered by an official recruiter in Russia, reports The Moscow Times.
The Russian Defense Ministry website states, “In accordance with the assignment of the RF President, by 1 January 2017 the number of soldiers, sailors, sergeants and petty officers serving under contract in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation will amount to 425 thousand people.”
• military vocational direction finding;
• filing a formalized document (application form);
• studying and reviewing the personal data of the candidate and his trustworthiness (citizenship, employment and study references, results of queries to law enforcement bodies, the study of health on the basis of the medical book from the clinic);
• pre-employment medical examination (by unauthorized medical board);
• pre-professional psychological selection at the appropriate service place.
The preliminary results obtained are directed to a point of selection for the subsequent selection and in-depth study.
Initial and preliminary selection may be held in a military unit.
In-depth (final) selection is carried out at a point of selection regarding all the pre-qualified candidates or candidates having independently arrived at the point of selection, if they are living relatively close.”
The focus on contracting soldiers is no doubt also due to the high numbers of ‘draft dodgers’. Be it through bribery, forged birth certificates or imaginary illnesses, many Russian men will find a way to avoid this dreaded duty, despite a law being passed in 2008 shortening the length of service from 18 months to a year, reports Russia Insider.
Entire online communities have been formed to help foreigners who want to serve the Russian military. Although official policy may not prevent Westerners from signing up, a recruit may face discrimination in hiring, or even pushback or hardship from the Russian troops themselves.