In dealing with the mobilization with which President Vladimir Putin surprised the population last Wednesday, Russia’s rulers are using a double tactic. On the one hand, the “special operation” in the Ukraine is now being upgraded to a new, third “Patriotic War” with pictures of “mobilized” Russians from several parts of the country, after the wars against Napoleon 210 years ago and the German conquerors 80 years ago.
War blogger Alexandr Koz from the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda wrote on Telegram about pictures of men allegedly setting out from the Sverdlovsk Oblast in the Urals, cheering and shouting that the “special operation” was turning into a “people’s war”. This idea also shaped a celebration held at the Kremlin in Moscow last Friday to “support” the “referendums” on the annexation of the eastern and southern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Cherson and Zaporizhia to Russia.
On the other hand, some governors and state media propagandists, such as Margarita Simonyan of state broadcaster RT, have raised the issue of “mobilizing” Russians who, according to published categories, shouldn’t be because they are too old or have a low rank. From Sevastopol in the annexed Crimea, from the Vladimir and Magadan regions and from Yakutia, regional leaders criticized the mobilization practice. Cases have been reported in a number of regions of ‘mobilized’ people being sent home.
Students exempted from military service
Apparently those in power are concerned with avoiding greater resentment by occasionally admitting and correcting “mistakes”. Putin signed a decree exempting students from military service.
Despite such calming measures, numerous Russian men are likely to continue trying to leave the country. If you can afford it, you can fly to Turkey, Istanbul or one of the Mediterranean holiday resorts at horrendous prices. Others try to cross land borders into neighboring countries. Particularly long traffic jams are reported at the border with Georgia. Cases are already being reported of Russians being refused exit at the border.
Civil rights activists threatened with fines
The exiled Russian news portal “Medusa” reported on Sunday, citing those close to the presidential administration, that after the “referendums” that are due to end on Tuesday evening, Russian men of mobilizing age will be banned from leaving Russia without a special permit. Civil rights activists spread advice on how to evade conscription; They emphasize that it has so far only been an administrative offense not to appear at the draft office when summoned, and name legal options that should at least help to gain time.
However, such civil society actors have been defamed for years and increasingly persecuted. Moscow’s military commissar Viktor Shchepilov has now complained that lawyers are helping to evade conscription and threatened them with the crime of “discrediting” the armed forces introduced after the invasion of Ukraine.
However, especially outside of the big cities, knowledge of legal remedies is weak, while peer pressure is strong. There are protests against the mobilization and the war, but they are sometimes brutally broken up. According to the civil rights protectors from “OWD-Info”, more than 820 people were arrested in new actions in 34 cities over the weekend.