Russian officials say only volunteer contract soldiers are sent to fight in Ukraine, although they acknowledge that some conscripts were put into the fighting by mistake in the early stages of the war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an order Wednesday to fast track Russian citizenship for residents of parts of southern Ukraine largely held by his forces, while lawmakers in Moscow passed a bill to strengthen the stretched Russian army, AP reports.

Putin’s decree applying to the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions could allow Russia to strengthen its hold on territory that lies between eastern Ukraine, where Moscow-backed separatists occupy some areas, and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized in 2014.

The Russian army is engaged in an intense battle for Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, known as the Donbas. In a sign that the Kremlin is trying to bolster its stretched military machine, Russian lawmakers agreed to scrap the age limit of 40 for those signing their first voluntary military contracts.

Three months into Russia’s invasion, Putin visited a military hospital in Moscow on Wednesday and met with some soldiers wounded in Ukraine, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Read more

© Copyright LaPresse