Russia deploys ’60-year-old soldiers and gives conscripts 19th-century rifles’

The Russian army is said to have sent soldiers to fight in Ukraine with weapons developed in the late 19th century.

Conscripts from the Russian-backed Donbass region were reportedly sent to the front with a rifle called Mosin, with the Kremlin relying on stockpiles of weapons dating back to World War II.

Vladimir Putin’s forces have struggled against fierce Ukrainian resistance and a steady supply of modern weapons from Western allies.

After nearly six weeks of war, Moscow has claimed only limited territorial gains and suffered significant losses in terms of vehicles, weapons and troops.

NATO estimates that up to 15,000 Russian soldiers were killed in the fighting, while kyiv says the death toll could have exceeded 18,000.

After suffering heavy casualties, the Russian army would call for volunteers nearing retirement to show up in two Siberian cities: Chelyabinsk and Tyumen.

Russian military guarding a checkpoint in Luhansk region, Ukraine

(EPA)

Russian media reported that the expanded reserve force was needed to fulfill a wide range of battlefield roles, including tank commanders, snipers and engineers – with the army aiming to recruit volunteers 60 years old.

Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency reported that several Donbass conscripts had been issued bolt-action Mosin rifles, which were developed in the 1880s.

Unverified images and videos shared on social media also showed Donbass fighters with the weapon, which went out of production decades ago.

This map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

(Images from the Press Association)

On Friday, Russia began its annual spring conscription, which aimed to round up 134,500 men for a year-long military tour.

Russian officials have said new recruits will not be sent to front lines or “hot spots”, but many Russians fear being drawn into the war.

The question of the involvement of conscripts in Russia’s military campaign against Ukraine is extremely sensitive.

Earlier in March, the Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged that some had been sent to Ukraine after Mr Putin repeatedly denied this, saying only professional soldiers and officers had been sent.

Vladimir Putin’s forces battled fierce Ukrainian resistance

(via Reuters)

All Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 must serve one year in the army, but many avoid service for health reasons or deferments granted to university students.

Additional reports by agencies

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