Vladimir Putin reportedly conducting ‘hidden mobilisation’ to prepare 300,000 new troops

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Russia is planning to draft an additional 300,000 soldiers in June in another massive push to usurp Ukraine’s defences, Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed.

Mobilisation has been a divisive issue in both nations after over two years of war, which has seen huge military losses, cities decimated and millions displaced.

The Ukrainian leader’s claim came after independent Russian publication Verstka reported that the Russian Defence Ministry planned to draft more than a quarter of a million more troops into the army in a process called “hidden mobilisation”.

Russian authorities are now focusing on reservists, men doing mandatory military service, students at military universities and veterans discharged from service to re-draft to the front lines.

“I can say that Russia is preparing to mobilise 300,000 additional troops on June 1,” Mr Zelensky said, as reported by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

Ukraine has also doubled down on its internal efforts to stabilise the war, with Mr Zelensky on Tuesday signing into law a measure lowering the country’s army mobilisation age from 27 to 25.

The move comes as Ukraine struggles to find enough resources to battle the Russian invasion, with politicians regularly pleading to Western powers to ramp up military support.

With no end in sight, NATO has commenced talks to initiate a massive five-year, $165 billion plan to support Ukraine long-term.

“We need to shift the dynamics of our support,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

“We must ensure reliable and predictable security assistance to Ukraine for the long haul… less on short-term offers and more on multi-year pledges.”

Russia, which has a far larger army, has seen some successes on the battlefield in Ukraine this year, and Ukraine’s military has for months been asking the government to draft more soldiers.

But the big picture over where the tumultuous, world-shifting conflict will end up is still grey.

Russia has been hurling more manpower into its offensive, but there has been very little movement on the front for either side in the past year.

In December, Mr Zelensky said the army wanted to mobilise up to half a million people to battle Moscow’s forces in Ukraine.

The army enlistment system is considered by many Ukrainians to be unjust, inefficient and often corrupt.

There are also increasing voices to demobilise exhausted fighters who have been on the front for a long time.

While the rest of the world debates over whether to send additional military aid, people continue to die on the frontlines. Earlier this week, a Russian missile strike on the central city of Dnipro wounded at least 18 people, with President Zelensky saying rescue efforts were underway after a college and kindergarten were hit.

Dnipro is a city in central Ukraine on the river of the same name and has been a regular target for Russian artillery since the invasion began.

“Dnipro. Already 18 injured,” Dnipropetrovsk governor Sergey Lysak said on social media, adding that five of those taken to hospital were children.

Mr Zelensky said in his daily evening address that “rescue operations” were underway and also said the educational facilities were “damaged”.

He has vowed for further retaliation, saying it is “important that the Russian terrorists receive answers to their attacks.” The Ukrainian leader also called for more western air defences to resist Russian forces.

“Air defence for Ukraine is the protection of life,” he said, adding that “they can save thousands of lives from Russian terror”.

Mr Zelensky has hit back at critics who have condemned Ukraine’s strikes on Russian oil refineries and captured air bases in recent months.

“It seems to me that to really understand how to survive in Kharkiv, how people are living with no electricity or water, people probably need to come and see, and then condemn something or not. Russia understands nothing but force,” he told a joint press conference with Finnish President Alexander Stubb on Tuesday.

“And all the condemnations of the illegal occupation of our territory, the attacks on our energy sector, the power outages we have experienced over the past two years, the blowing up of our infrastructure facilities and hydro-electric power plants … All these condemnations have not led to any reduction in the Russian Federation’s attacks.

“This shows that these people only understand when there is a powerful response, so I believe that our Western partners should support Ukrainian responses.”