- Vladimir Putin on Wednesday called for partial mobilization of Russian citizens.
- Over 1,200 arrests have been made so far. Putin's move is considered deeply unpopular.
- After Putin's order, Russians went scrambling to buy plane tickets to flee the country.
Russia Ukraine War: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday called for partial mobilization of Russian citizens, a move that led to protests in parts of the country, in which over 1,200 arrests have been made so far. Putin's announcement is considered a deeply unpopular move. The risky order follows humiliating setbacks for Putin’s troops nearly seven months after they invaded Ukraine. The first such call-up in Russia since World War II heightened tensions with Ukraine’s Western backers, who derided it as an act of weakness and desperation.
After Putin's order, Russians went scrambling to buy plane tickets to flee the country. Visuals released on social media showcased protesters out on the streets, chanting "no to war". Videos from the protest areas show cops trying to keep a mob at Isakiivskiy Cathedral behind barriers, amid slogans of no mobilisation.
The total number of reservists to be called up could be as high as 300,000, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said. However, Putin’s decree authorizing the partial mobilization, which took effect immediately, offered few details, raising suspicions that the draft could be broadened at any moment. Notably, one clause was kept secret.
“I’m not afraid of anything. The most valuable thing that they can take from us is the life of our children. I won’t give them life of my child,” said one Muscovite, who declined to give her name, reported news agency AP. Asked whether protesting would help, she said: “It won’t help, but it’s my civic duty to express my stance. No to war!”
In his 14-minute nationally televised address, Putin warned the West that he isn’t bluffing about using everything at his disposal to protect Russia — an apparent reference to his nuclear arsenal. He has previously rebuked NATO countries for supplying weapons to Ukraine. Confronted with steep battlefield losses, expanding front lines, and a conflict that has raged longer than expected, the Kremlin has struggled to replenish its troops in Ukraine, reportedly even resorting to widespread recruitment in prisons.