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Russia Turns to Trucks and Big Salaries to Court Volunteer Soldiers

In the Russian city of Rostov, soldiers in camouflage and black masks show off their weapons and offer recruitment contracts.

The Russian military, seeking contract soldiers for what it calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine, is using mobile recruitment trucks to attract volunteers, offering nearly $2,700 a month as an incentive.

A special unit parked one such truck in a central park in the southern Russian city of Rostov on Saturday and removed the sides to reveal a mobile office.

Soldiers in camouflage and black masks showed their weapons to interested passers-by and handed out color leaflets titled “Contract Military Service: A Real Man’s Choice.”

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Neither Russia nor Ukraine disclose their military losses, which Western intelligence agencies estimate to be in the tens of thousands on both sides.

Moscow has not updated the official death toll since March 25, when it said 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed and 3,825 wounded. The Kremlin said last week that there was no talk of a national mobilization to bolster its forces.


But the recruitment drive shows that Moscow needs more men. The officer in charge of the Rostov truck said Russians and foreigners between the ages of 18 and 60 with at least a secondary education would be eligible.

“Patriotic-minded citizens choose to sign three- or six-month contracts to participate in the special military operation,” Maj. Sergei Ardashev said, promising training for all.

The minimum monthly salary on offer is 160,000 rubles ($2,700), which is nearly three times the national average.

One potential recruit was musician Viktor Yakunin, who said he had always been attracted to the idea of ​​military service and was now gathering the necessary documents.

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“I would love to serve in the airborne troops,” he said. “My parents raised me from childhood to love my homeland, to protect the Russian world. I think the power is with us.”

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Inside the truck, Yakunin sat down with Ardashev, who told him that the next step would be a mental exam. If that passed, there would be a physical test of speed, strength, and endurance.

If all went well, Yakunin “would come to a military unit, enroll in a specific division, [and] from that moment the military service begins”.

Outside, young people, some with families, browsed a temporary exhibit that featured photos of official heroes of the conflict, along with a large banner reading “Victory Tradition.”

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