In its regular intelligence update, the government department said Russian parliamentarians had “introduced a bill to change the age bracket for conscription to men aged 21-30 years, from the current 18-27. The law is likely to be passed and would come into force in January 2024.”
Russia has already mobilised former serving soldiers to return to the ranks and the MoD said although conscripts are “officially” barred from serving in Ukraine it estimated “at least hundreds have probably served through administrative mix-ups or after being coerced”.
It added: “The authorities are highly likely changing the age bracket to bolster troop numbers by ensuring that students are eventually forced to serve. Even if Russia continues to refrain from deploying conscripts in the war, extra conscripts will free up a greater proportion of professional soldiers to fight.”
It comes as US President Joe Biden joined Britain in welcoming the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes in Ukraine.
Mr Biden said Mr Putin had “clearly committed war crimes” and the warrant, although not recognised in the US, was “justified” and made “a very strong point”.
His remarks came after UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said it was essential those at the top of the regime in Moscow were held to account for the atrocities which have taken place since the invasion a year ago.
The Hague-based ICC said it was issuing the warrant for the arrest of the Russian leader over the alleged abduction and deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia during the war.
The charges were immediately dismissed by the Kremlin – which does not recognise the ICC – as “legally void”.
Widespread Russian attacks continued after the court’s announcement with the Ukrainian Air Force reporting 16 drone attacks on Friday.
Writing on Telegram, air force command said 11 out of 16 drones were shot down “in the central, western and eastern regions.” Among areas targeted were the capital, Kyiv, and the western Lviv province.The Ukrainian military said on Saturday that Russian forces over the previous 24 hours launched 34 airstrikes, one missile strike and 57 rounds of anti-aircraft fire. According to the Ukrainian statement, Russia is still concentrating on offensive operations in Ukraine‘s industrial east.