Putin recruiting CHILDREN to replace humiliating losses as Russia raids on youth clubs

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Human rights officials have accused the Kremlin of recruiting children to boost troop numbers in eastern Ukraine. An estimated 30,000 Russian soldiers have been either killed, wounded or captured so far in the invasion. Moscow is now said to be recruiting from youth clubs and conscripting 16-year-olds to bolster its numbers.

These youth clubs are described as “patriotic clubs”, and sprang up in Russian-occupied parts of eastern Ukraine following the earlier invasion in 2014.

Anti-Russian campaigners have described them as “indoctrination clubs”.

The clubs were reportedly set up in order to promote Russian culture in Luhansk and Donetsk – the recognition of which as Russian-backed separatist states being Putin’s final move before the invasion.

On Saturday, Ukrainian officials called on the United Nations to investigate the alleged use of “child soldiers” by Russia.

According to human rights organisations, the children are undergoing military training and could be sent to the frontline, potentially, against their will.

The badges and insignia of Russian military cadets, who are not supposed to be in active war zones, have also reportedly been found on battlefields in Ukraine.

There also appears to be evidence throughout the war that Russia has been deploying fresh conscripts to the frontlines.

While the exact number is not clear, current estimates suggest that these troops make up 25 percent of the Russian army.

These are generally assumed to have a lower level of morale than older soldiers due to their lack of experience, and possibly having less motivation to pursue the conflict.

They also tend to be less capable than traditional soldiers, as the conscription process limits their training time.

Therefore, when they are used, they tend to be given roles that are seen as requiring less technical expertise – such as logistics, which has proven to be a severe weak point for Putin’s forces during the invasion.

Russia requires all male citizens aged 18 to 27 to register for conscription, normally for the term of a year, and then move into a mandatory reserve status.

On March 8, Putin denied that any conscripts were being used in the war.

However, just the following day, the Ministry of Defence publicly confirmed that there were Russian conscripts in Ukraine and that some had been taken prisoner.

The latest reports that Russia may be making use of child soldiers comes as Ukraine has been forced to give civilian volunteers weapons training.

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The training includes close defence tactics, use of weaponry, military tactics and first aid.

The Ukrainian parliament commissioner on human rights Lyudmyla Denisova said: ‘The occupation authorities [of Luhansk and Donetsk] are conducting the mobilisation of children who participated in the so-called patriotic clubs, to the levels of illegal weapons formations.

‘They have been doing military training and there have been deaths among these teenagers [in Ukraine].

‘Now they are promoting the entry into the army of civilians, including children in the temporarily occupied territories.

‘In doing so, the Russian Federation has violated the laws and customs of war provided by the 1949 Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians… and the rights of children.

‘The recruitment of children is a violation of international law.’

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