Sep 27, 2022 - World

Russia's mobilization drive devolves into chaos

A protester is detained in Novosibirsk, Siberia. Photo: Rostislav Netisov/AFP via Getty Images

The Kremlin acknowledged "errors" Monday in its drive to mobilize 300,000 men to fight in Ukraine, as backlash grew in far-flung provinces and even on state TV.

Driving the news: At least 20 military recruitment offices have been torched, per Moscow Times. A recruitment officer was shot point blank and left critically injured on Monday in Irkutsk, Siberia.

  • Meanwhile, stories of men being handed draft papers who don't fit the criteria for mobilization — many because they're far too old — have been widely shared online.
  • Prominent state TV host Vladimir Solovyov berated the "idiots" failing to properly implement Putin's orders, while RT chief Margarita Simonyan warned that such commanders were "toying with armed people."
  • Both also lamented that some recruits were being given inadequate equipment.

What they're saying: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday that "all the errors will be corrected." The government has also been emphasizing that draftees will be paid well and won't lose their civilian jobs.

  • Peskov also said no decision had been made on whether to close Russia's borders with neighboring countries to keep potential recruits in.

The latest: At the border with Georgia, the line of cars — many likely containing military-age men — can be seen from space. Flights to countries like Turkey that still allow visa-free travel from Russia have sold out or spiked dramatically in price.

  • Russia's Baltic neighbors say they'll turn back Russians fleeing the draft, arguing they should stay and oppose their government.
  • At least some of those drafted have been told they'll be sent to Ukraine after just two weeks of training, per the WSJ. Military analysts have raised questions about what that will mean for the morale and effectiveness of combat units.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CBS News that Putin's order was an admission that "he knows that he's losing the war."

Between the lines: The mobilization order may have been one of the biggest political gambles of Putin's career. But while its execution has been chaotic, it's clear he's trying to reduce the risk to the regime, says Greg Yudin, a sociologist at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences.

  • Yudin notes that men from ethnic minority backgrounds and rural areas are far more likely to be mobilized than those in major cities, particularly Moscow.
  • Putin "tries not to antagonize the groups that might be able to organize" against him, Yudin writes. Many of the photos and videos of large groups of men being rounded up for service have come from Siberia.
  • In Dagestan in the North Caucasus, which has already reportedly suffered disproportionate casualties in Ukraine, the mobilization order sparked demonstrations and clashes with security forces. "Why are you taking our sons?" one woman demanded of a police officer.

Meanwhile, the referenda staged by Russian authorities in four regions of Ukraine, which have been labeled a "sham" by most Western governments, are due to conclude tomorrow.

  • Asked whether the territories will be brought under Russia's nuclear umbrella if annexed into Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said they'd have Moscow's "full protection."
  • Zelensky said annexing Ukrainian territory would make a diplomatic deal impossible.

Worth noting: Kazakhstan, one of Moscow's key allies, said Monday that it won't recognize the referenda, underscoring how little international legitimacy annexation would have.

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