Since President Vladimir Putin’s mobilization announcement and forced conscription of 300,000 new troops last week, enlistment offices around Russia are being attacked. Potentially moving the country toward disarray, 17 administrative offices have been torched in arson attacks since the call-up. Russians fear the initially limited mobilization will expand to a much greater number than those announced by President Putin.
Many Russians have opted to flee the country to avoid Putin’s call-up for the war in Ukraine. Those with cars and money are leaving in droves, with massive lines at the border, stating they do not want to die for the despot. In response, four of the five European Union (EU) border countries are not granting Russian tourist visa. Lines to cross into the former Soviet countries of Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Armenia are reportedly taking more than 24 hours to cross. The departure is represented by those with funds, skills, and education, and this is increasing the brain-drain within Russia.
However, what is not well publicized, and certainly not in the Russian media, is the call-up’s effect on the impoverished and ethnic minorities. Many cannot leave due to lack of funds and/or transportation. Protest or conscription are the only choices for these folks that cannot flee the country. The associated ongoing strife is causing thousands to be arrested after public protests because of the draft. Russian authorities stated the call-up would only affect those with previous military experience. However, the written order gives much broader terms, growing fears of a wider future draft.
Protesting In the Face of Opposition
The implication for ethnic minorities is even greater, which is causing anguish across multiple regions. Heated protests have broken out against Vladimir Putin’s mobilization orders, with activist groups saying minorities are being disproportionately targeted for conscription in the war. Protests in Russia’s Dagestan region have filmed women in that capital pleading with police, stating “Why are you taking our children? Who attacked who? It’s Russia that attacked Ukraine.” In the footage, groups of women were seen chanting “No war,” as police officers walk away.
In the Irkutsk region of Siberia, one protester killed a local recruitment commander. A video of the incident inside an enlistment office appears to show a gunman dressed in military uniform yelling at to the men assembled in the recruiting office stating, “Nobody is going anywhere.” The shooter was said to have been upset about his friend being conscripted, firing upon the recruiting official as potential draftees ran for their life. The commander is in critical condition, and the shooter was captured, with local authorities stating he will “absolutely be punished.”
Another man tried to burn himself alive at a bus station in the town of Ryazan, 115 miles southeast of Moscow. Dousing himself with lighter fluid before erupting in flames, witnesses say the man laughed and shouted that he did not want to be part of the “special operation” in Ukraine, referring to Putin’s description of the Ukrainian war.
At a protest in the far eastern city of Yakutsk on Sunday, a crowd of women chanted, “Give back our grandfathers!” Some residents of Yakutsk have been conscripted “by mistake” despite not being eligible for mobilization, demonstrating the chaotic situation due to Putin’s order.
Russia Tries to Back Track
As the brain-drain continues, Russia is beginning to realize the error of the announcement. The defense ministry is being forced to try and rectify the situation. A report over the weekend, suggested Moscow will close the borders to men of fighting age this week, to stop the departure of potential reserve soldiers for the War in Ukraine.
Yesterday, Moscow revealed a host of occupations it says will be exempted from the conscription order. IT workers, bankers and journalists working for state media will not suffer from forced conscription and escape the “partial mobilization.” This exemption will likely increase the burden on ethnic regions and the impoverished to fill the ranks of the Russian army in this terrible and unnecessary war caused by Putin.