Russia will expand its armed forces to 1.5 million personnel, defense minister Sergey Shoigu announced at a meeting on Tuesday.
The expansion will be carried out from 2023 to 2026, including infrastructure, armament build-up, and structural reorganization.
Laying out the plan, Shoigu said that the expansion is required to protect “the new regions and crucial facilities of the Russian Federation,” referring to the recently occupied Ukrainian territories of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya.
‘Self-Contained’ Groups for Occupied Territories
The expansion will see “two new inter-branch strategic territorial formations” in the Moscow and Leningrad military districts, “as well as self-contained groups of forces in the new regions of the Russian Federation,” Shoigu said.
Additionally, Russia will reorganize seven motorized rifle brigades in the western, central, and eastern military districts, the northern fleet, and include “three motorized rifle divisions as part of the land forces, and two airborne assault divisions as part of the airborne troops.”
New Corps for Border With Finland
The plan also calls for a new army corps in the Republic of Karelia and the reinforcement of the navy, aerospace forces, and strategic missile forces.
The country considers Karelia important, as neighboring Finland — along with Sweden — has applied to join NATO.
The defense minister had earlier proposed a Russian military comprising 695,000 “professional contracted soldiers” as opposed to conscripts.
He also proposed to raise the age range of mandatory military service to 21-30 from the current 18-27.
It’s unclear whether the two proposals have been included in the latest plan.
Third Expansion Plan
The plan comes after Vladimir Putin signed a decree in August recruiting 137,000 soldiers from January 1, increasing military manpower to 1.15 million.
Russia also drafted up to 300,000 reservists in September amid Ukraine war losses.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the expansion is in response to the “proxy war” he claimed the US and its allies are waging against Russia in Ukraine.