Russian lawmakers voted Tuesday to enforce an electronic conscription system that would make it nearly impossible for men to avoid conscription, the latest sign that Moscow is gearing up to boost an army fighting Kiev’s fierce counterattack. .

The new system comes ahead of Ukraine’s anticipated spring offensive.

Currently, Russian men must receive paper recruitment notices, delivered in person to a registered address or workplace. Some 300,000 men were drafted to fight in the Ukraine last year. Russia has not said how many more men it might be trying to mobilize.

Under the law, the men would be prohibited from leaving the country from the day they receive the summons until they report to a military recruiting office. Those who do not show up within 20 days will face a series of restrictions, including a ban on driving vehicles, selling and buying real estate, and obtaining bank loans.

The new rules, which could go into effect starting this week and apply to both conscripts and reservists, mean that a notice of conscription will be considered served and legally valid as soon as it arrives on Russia’s state portal account. for electronic services.

The “Gosuslugi” portal is widely used by Russians for online public services such as birth registration, paying fines, and booking medical appointments, so bypassing it to circumvent the draft would be very difficult.

The changes appear to give the Kremlin a much more streamlined system that would allow for a more comprehensive recruitment effort, closing loopholes that have helped thousands evade the draft.

In an unpopular move, President Vladimir Putin first announced a partial mobilization as his forces fought in Ukraine last September, resulting in a mass exodus of Russian men and a wave of protests across the country.

There were no official estimates of how many men may have fled, but many of those who did not leave the country and were unwilling to fight went into hiding from the authorities.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu promised on October 28 that he would not mobilize any more in the near future.

Russian mobilization of soldiers for Ukraine.
Russian conscripts board a train in Russia’s Volgograd region on September 29, 2022.AP file

The Kremlin has tried to downplay fears of a new wave of conscriptions.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday that The changes to the legislation are part of a broader effort to modernize an outdated convocation system, and do not mean that a new mobilization effort is on the horizon.

Russian social media has been abuzz with discussions about the changes to the preliminary system. Several lawyers began sharing legal advice about the rights men still have under the new legislation, with some suggesting that leaving the country before the new rules are enacted may be the only real way to avoid being drafted.

The new legislation received the green light from Russia’s upper house of parliament on Wednesday, Russian state news agency Tass reported, and now only needs Putin’s signature to take effect.

The Russian war stalled after the invasion in February last year. For months, the Russians have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the eastern city of Bakhmut, which has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance and has resulted in huge estimated losses on both sides.

Russian defense officials have remained silent on the country’s war death toll, but Western officials have suggested it could be in the tens of thousands.

Although the head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner has repeatedly claimed that Russia controls much of the city, the Ukrainians continue to fight, leaving Moscow scrambling to claim its first military victory in many months.