Russia Drafts Anti-War Protesters Into Military Amid Nationwide Demonstrations: Watchdog Group

Images and videos show police cracking down on protesters in multiple cities, with footage shows several protesters at a demonstration in central Moscow being led away by police and authorities in St. Petersburg trying to contain a crowd chanting “no mobilization” outside Isakiivskiy Cathedral.

Police arrested protesters in 38 cities in Russia on Wednesday, according to figures released shortly after midnight by independent monitoring group OVD-Info. The group’s spokeswoman Maria Kuznetsova said in a phone call with CNN that at least four police stations in Moscow some of the protesters arrested by riot police were called directly into the Russian army.

One of the inmates has been threatened with prosecution for refusing to be drafted, she said. The government has said the penalty for refusing the draft is now 15 years in prison. Of the more than 1,300 people arrested nationwide, more than 500 were in Moscow and more than 520 in St. Petersburg, according to OVD-Info.

The demonstrations followed a morning address by Putin, in which he laid out a plan to scale back the stakes of his war in Ukraine, including for the Russian people, at a time when a sudden counteroffensive from Kiev has retaken thousands of square kilometers of territory and set Moscow on fire. the hind foot. Experts say that his powers are significantly reduced.
The announced “partial mobilization” would see 300,000 reservists called up, according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Putin said those with military experience would be subject to conscription, stressing that the decree – which had already been signed – was necessary to “protect our homeland, its sovereignty and its territorial integrity.”

The decree itself does not only apply to reservists. It allows the “call [of] citizens of the Russian Federation for military service through mobilization in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”

Putin raised the specter of nuclear weapons during his address, saying he would use “all the means at our disposal” if he deemed Russia’s “territorial integrity” at risk. He also endorsed referendums on joining Russia that Russian-appointed leaders in four occupied regions of Ukraine announced they would hold this week.

Concern among Russian citizens was palpable on Wednesday, with travel agency websites showing a dramatic increase in demand for flights to places where Russians don’t need an emergency. visa Flight sales websites indicate that direct flights to such countries are sold out at least until Friday.
The protests, most of which seemed to have attracted a few dozen people, were another strong signal of the desperation felt by some. Dissent is typically quickly crushed in Russia and authorities have placed further restrictions on free speech following the invasion of Ukraine.

Social media footage showed several protesters in Ulan Ude in eastern Siberia holding signs reading “No to war! No to mobilization!” and “Our men, fathers and brothers do not want to kill other men and fathers!”

“We want our fathers, husbands and brothers to stay alive…and not leave their children as orphans. Stop the war and don’t take our people!” said one protester.

Video from Yekaterinburg in western Russia showed police fighting with several protesters. CNN could not independently verify the footage from either city.

Another video posted by a journalist from the Moscow Internet publication The Village shows dozens of people in Arbatskaya Street chanting “Let him go” as one man is led away.

Putin is trying to raise the stakes in Ukraine.  Here is what it means

The Moscow prosecutor’s office also warned citizens on Wednesday against taking part in protests or spreading information calling for participation – reminding people that they could face up to 15 years in prison.

Putin’s announcement of “partial mobilization” was condemned by Western leaders, many of whom met at the opening of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.

In a rare joint statement, British Prime Minister Liz Truss and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that both agreed that Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization of Russian citizens is a sign of “weakness.”

Ukraine remained defiant in the face of the announcement, with President Volodymyr Zelensky telling the UNGA in a pre-recorded address Wednesday that Russia was “afraid of real (peace) negotiations,” pointing to what he characterized as Russian “lies.”

Russia “talks about the talks, but announces a military mobilization,” Zelensky said. “Russia wants war.”

Katya Krebs, Uliana Pavlova, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Anastasia Graham-Yooll, Sugam Pokharel, Clare Sebastian, Idris Muktar and Stephanie Halasz contributed to this report.