Sep 29, 2022 - World

Putin says "mistakes" must stop as some Russians resist draft

New recruits are mobilized in Moscow. Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged "mistakes" in the mobilization process on Thursday, and said anyone who was called up despite not meeting the draft criteria “must be sent home.”

Why it matters: 70% of Russians say they felt fear or alarm as a result of Putin's partial mobilization, and 66% believe full mobilization is possible, according to the Levada Center independent pollster. The proportions of Russians believing the war isn't going well (31%) and wanting peace talks (48%) also increased in the new poll.

Zoom in: In Dagestan, regional leader Sergei Melikov lambasted draft officers who drove through the city of Derbent demanding that "all male citizens" report to a conscription center. Describing them as "morons," he asked, "Who authorized them?"

  • Dagestan has reportedly suffered disproportionate casualties in the war, and Putin's mobilization order sparked unrest in The North Caucasus.

The big picture: Alexander Baunov of the Carnegie Endowment describes Putin's Russia as a "country of fences," where citizens sacrifice political rights for security, but keep a fence around their private lives.

  • Putin has now breached that fence — and violated his "unwritten contract" — by taking "husbands, sons, brothers into the army," Baunov says.
  • While people who never openly opposed Putin are fleeing the draft, street protests in Russian cities are still mainly limited to a small pro-Western, anti-war segment of the population, he says.
  • Still, Baunov believes Putin's hold on the elite and the general public has weakened.

What's next: Putin will hold a signing ceremony tomorrow to formally annex four Moscow-occupied areas of Ukraine, the Kremlin said Thursday, following staged referendums in the regions.

  • The expected annexation will dramatically raise the stakes in the occupied regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson as Putin could attempt to portray any attack in the areas as an attack on Russia itself.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov previously said the annexed areas would have Moscow's "full protection," a signal they could be brought under the nuclear umbrella.

Between the lines: Putin seems to hope, mistakenly, that by putting nuclear weapons on the table he can convince the U.S. to pressure Ukraine to agree to back down, says Carnegie's Alexander Gabuev.

  • But by laying claim to so much Ukrainian territory, he has also raised the bar for victory.
  • "Putin views this war as existential for himself, for his personal survival maybe, for his legacy and for his country. And that's why it's just unattainable that he will back down. There is no diplomatic offramp that is visible for him."

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