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In Seized Parts of Ukraine, Moscow Stages Balloting on Joining Russia

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He and other top officials also suggested that Russia could use nuclear weapons in the conflict, particularly after annexation of Ukrainian territory, when it would call any enemy action there an attack on Russian soil. “This is not a bluff,” Mr. Putin said in a speech to the nation on Wednesday.

But in an interview on Friday, Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, insisted that the threat was empty bluster. “If you really want to use some kind of weapon, you will do it and you will not talk about it again and again,” he said.

The Kremlin has insisted that only men with military experience and particular skills are being called up, but anecdotal reports make clear that is not true, and that some people years — even decades — past the usual draft age have been included. It is also clear that the conscription is concentrated more heavily in poorer, outlying areas, including those populated by ethnic minorities, than in the major western cities that are home to Russia’s elite.

The call-up has prompted protests in many cities, with some protesters being handed draft notices in retaliation. It has also spurred some draft-eligible men to book flights out of the country; it is not clear why the government was allowing them to leave, or what efforts it was making to prevent them.

On Friday, the Kremlin announced new draft exemptions, apparently in response to complaints from major businesses that they risked losing vital workers. The Ministry of Defense said that people with certain jobs in banking, information technology and telecommunications would be exempt. Organizations representing software developers and air traffic controllers requested exemptions for their members.

Reporting was contributed by Valerie Hopkins in Berlin, Maria Varenikova and Anna Lukinova in Kyiv, Ukraine, Nick Cumming-Bruce in Geneva, Dan Bilefsky in Montreal, Cora Engelbrecht in London, Ivan Nechepurenko in Tbilisi, Georgia, Jim Tankersley in Washington, and Anton Troianovski and Richard Pérez-Peña in New York.

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