Russians protest and flee country as Putin orders draft for Ukraine: NPR

Riot police detained anti-mobilization demonstrators in Moscow on Wednesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the partial mobilization of reservists in Russia, effective immediately.

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Riot police detained anti-mobilization demonstrators in Moscow on Wednesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the partial mobilization of reservists in Russia, effective immediately.

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MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order to mobilize more troops to bolster his struggling military campaign in Ukraine is sending ripples across Russia as the military rapidly recruits new recruits and signs of discontent appear to be spreading.

Putin announced the decision on Wednesday, framing it as a “partial mobilization” that he said affects only a small percentage of Russians with a military background.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered an immediate call-up of 300,000 additional troops — although several news reports suggested the actual number could be three times that.

The Kremlin has tasked regional governors with overseeing the draft and toughened penalties for refusing service or desertion to up to 10 years in prison.

Meanwhile, the effect of the decree is becoming more and more clear. Dozens of videos have appeared on social media showing families and friends forcing young recruits to fight. These were scenes that few Russians could have imagined even last week. (NPR has not independently verified the images and material.)

In Yakutia, Russia’s far north, the band played the popular World War II song “Katyusha” and the audience applauded as the recruit was presented with a birthday cake to coincide with his deployment.

In Lipetsk, 300 miles south of Moscow, an Orthodox priest blessed young conscripts in civilian clothes as their mothers wailed. “Mom, I’ll be back!” shouted one recruit as the officer ordered the group to march.

In the southern Russian state of Dagestan, videos showed an altercation at a recruiting station.

“My son has been fighting there since February!” says the woman, who compares the current conflict to the Soviet Union’s war with Nazi Germany in World War II.

“It was a war… but this it’s just politics!” the man retorts.

Despite the government’s assurances that only those with a background in military service will be drafted, there are several reports of draft papers being sent to people with no prior military experience.

Amid uncertainty over the scope of the bill, news reports and social media posts showed long lines of cars at Russia’s border crossings with Finland and Georgia in the west and Kazakhstan and Mongolia in the south.

On Thursday, cars coming from Russia are waiting in long queues at the border point between Russia and Finland near Vaalimaa in Finland.

Olivier Morin/AFP via Getty Images


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Olivier Morin/AFP via Getty Images


On Thursday, cars coming from Russia are waiting in long queues at the border point between Russia and Finland near Vaalimaa in Finland.

Olivier Morin/AFP via Getty Images

Tickets for flights out of Russia to countries with visa-free travel, such as Armenia and Turkey, are either sold out or have skyrocketed in price.

In Moscow, the Telegram channel of the social media application claimed track the movement of recruitment officers in real time across the city – even in the metro.

“At Baumanskaya station, officers stand near the turnstile and stop people,” one post reads.

At Park Pobedy station, there is a group of National Guardsmen right near the escalator. Careful friends,” says another.

Avtozak Live, a voluntary human rights monitoring group, reported up to nine arson attacks at military recruitment centers or government buildings across Russia.

According to the rights defenders, the police were detained more than 1300 people in protests that broke out in dozens of Russian cities after Putin’s speech – crowds chanted “No to war!” and “Putin into the trenches!”

On Wednesday, the police detained a man in Moscow during demonstrations against Russia’s military mobilization. More than 1,300 people have been arrested during protests by more than 1,300 people against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization of civilians to fight in Ukraine, a police monitoring group said Wednesday.

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On Wednesday, the police detained a man in Moscow during demonstrations against Russia’s military mobilization. More than 1,300 people have been arrested during protests by more than 1,300 people against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization of civilians to fight in Ukraine, a police monitoring group said Wednesday.

Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images

Many now face potential legal trouble – after authorities warned protesters they could be in breach of new laws that criminalize denigration of Russia’s armed forces with lengthy prison terms.

Several protesters of military age claimed they were presented with draft papers while in police custody, a move Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov defended as legal at a press briefing.

Anti-war activists called for further protests against the mobilization over the weekend.