State Duma amendments to laws signal Russia is planning for protracted confrontation with the West

By Aditya Pareek and Alex Petric

Key points

  • Event: The Russian State Duma adopted amendments to laws ‘on military duty and military service', ‘on alternative civil service', and ‘on a unified register of military personnel' between 11 April and 25 July 2023
  • Significance: Amendments to the laws allow the governors of Russian regions to raise paramilitary units with regional and federal funding, tighten up restrictions for conscription absentees, and raise the age for enlistment of conscripts, which signals the Kremlin's desire to increase its military manpower without launching another full-scale mobilisation
  • Outlook: The amendments on raising the conscription age indicate that Russia is likely anticipating and planning for a long-term, protracted confrontation with the West. Russia is also likely to further amend legislation related to the legal status of paramilitary forces and other armed entities


On 25 July 2023 the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, adopted amendments to the Russian laws ‘on military duty and military service' and ‘on alternative civil service'. The amendments were approved by the Federation Council on 28 July 2023 and will very likely be signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the following days. On 11 April 2023 the State Duma also amended laws ‘on a unified register of military personnel' and ‘on the procedure for leaving and entering the Russian Federation'.


Creation of regional paramilitary units

The amendments to the law ‘on military duty and military service' will allow Russian regional governors to fund armed paramilitary units using their respective federal and regional budgets. The paramilitary units, as described by the bill, will be expected to assist the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Border Guard Service, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in protecting Russian state borders and fighting against illegal armed groups, foreign saboteurs, and foreign armed forces. In May 2023 Russia's border region of Belgorod was attacked by pro-Ukrainian ethnic Russian insurgent groups, the Liberty of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps. Similar groups are likely to be described by the law as ‘foreign saboteurs'. Janes assesses that units raised by regional authorities under the legal framework created by these new amendments are likely to be involved in the future defence of Russia's border regions. The decision to create regional units is very likely aimed at increasing military manpower without the Kremlin having to launch another full-scale mobilisation, raising discontent across the country. Moreover, it is very likely to help the Kremlin spread the financial burden of the war among the regional governments, as well as the responsibility for the actions and consequences of what happens in the theatre.

The amendments follow the Wagner Group's 23–24 June 2023 armed insurrection, which was aborted after a deal was brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko between the Kremlin and Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin. On 25 June the State Duma's Head of the Defence Committee, Andrei Kartapolov, revealed in an interview with the Russian newspaper Vedomosti that the State Duma was working on a law to regulate private military companies (PMCs) in RussiaJanes assesses that it is likely the amendments adopted on 25 July are part of the effort to regulate PMCs in Russia that Kartapolov had referred to a month before. PMCs had been illegal under Russian law until 24 July 2023. However, the Kremlin has relied on over 40 volunteer units raised by regional governments, businesses, including state companies, and individuals for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In November 2022 the Federal Assembly passed and Putin signed into law the legislation, which equates volunteers fighting for Russia in Ukraine with regular Russian military personnel for social security benefits and awards. However, with the exception of social security and awards, there was little legal basis to regulate these volunteers until the Russian MoD decreed on 10 June 2023 that all such volunteer units and individuals must sign a legal contract with the MoD. Janes assesses that the 10 June Russian MoD decree was a major factor in Prigozhin's decision to launch his failed armed insurrection between 23 and 24 June 2023.

Expansion of enlistment age

In a statement made on 25 July 2023, Kartapolov revealed that the expansion of conscripts' enlistment age band from 18–27 to 18–30 years was introduced due to Russia's demographic situation. The State Duma has already discussed the adoption of this amendment since December 2022, and the initially proposed enlistment age band was to be 21–30 years; however, this was not accepted. Kartapolov explained that for the 2023 spring conscription, the army called up 147,000 conscripts, and “to keep this figure sustainable, the parliament is expanding boundaries accordingly”.

The new legal provisions also stipulate that the conscript will be prohibited from leaving the country immediately after summonses are considered delivered. The travel ban order will be entered into a new National Digital Military Register and issued by the military commissioner rather than the court. Other rights of a conscript considered by law to be absconding will also be temporarily curtailed. Among them are suspension of a driving licence, registering as an entrepreneur or self-employed, or taking a bank loan. The Digital Military Register will be directly linked to Russia's online State Services Portal (Gosuslugi), which is used for accessing services such as voting in elections, using healthcare, and other services. Janes assesses that amendments to laws ‘on a unified register of military personnel' and ‘on the procedure for leaving and entering the Russian Federation' are designed to tighten up restrictions on conscription absentees.


Putin is very likely to approve the amendments and sign them into law within the next one month. Russia is likely to see further changes to legislation relevant to the legality of paramilitary forces, militias, and other types of armed entities in the next 12 months.

The amendments relevant to raising the age of conscription indicate that Russia is likely anticipating and planning for a long-term, protracted confrontation with the West. The new prospective pool of conscripts available to the MoD indicates the Kremlin's desire to expand the size of its armed forces.

(Note: Items from news/wire services are abstracted from the originals and are not verbatim)


Amendments to the laws allow the governors of Russian regions to raise paramilitary units with regio...

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