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Home News Russians head to the borders and take to the streets to protest Putin’s draft

Russians head to the borders and take to the streets to protest Putin’s draft

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Russian men flocked to border crossings with Finland, Georgia, and other neighboring nations Saturday, waiting in long lines to flee President Vladimir Putin’s “partial mobilization” draft as military officers went door-to-door in Russia’s hinterlands to call up the reluctant troops.

The exodus — which reportedly resulted in a quarter-mile-long line of cars at the Vaalimaa border crossing point in southeast Finland and a 2,000-vehicle traffic jam at Georgia’s Verkhny Lars checkpoint — came as Putin amended Russia’s criminal code, decreeing 10-year jail terms for those refusing to participate in combat operations.

“It is just insane,” said Nikita, a 27-year-old Russian waiting tearfully at the Finnish border. “All my friends (are) in danger … I am just for freedom.”

The mad dash came three days after Putin ordered the call-up of 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine during a national address that included a veiled threat to deploy the country’s nuclear arsenal against the US.

But the order sparked mass protests across Russia, resulting in nearly 1,500 arrests, in part because of a lesser-acknowledged paragraph in the decree that said up to 1 million recruits could be mustered.

Russian President Putin’s order has sparked mass protests across the country, with nearly 1,500 arrests.

A picture of Russian police detaining a protestor.
The protesting started three days after Putin ordered 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine during a national address.

A picture of Russian police detaining a protestor.
Russian policemen detained protesters against mobilization in St. Petersburg.

Demonstrations continued to flare Saturday as word of botched conscription orders spread throughout Russia.

In rural Buryatia, officials arrived at the door of the long-dead Alexander Bezdorozhny with papers ordering him to report for military duty.

Bezdorozhny died at age 40 in November 2020, nearly two years ago, after battling a chronic lung condition. He had never served in the Russian armed forces.

“It hurts me that the state only remembered him after he was dead,” his sister Natalia Semyonova said.

A picture of Russian police detaining a protestor.
The head of the Sakha Republic acknowledged that ineligible men, including fathers of young children, had been drafted improperly.

A picture of a woman holding a banner during a protest against the mobilization of Russians for war.
Demonstrations continued to flare as word of botched conscription orders spread throughout Russia.

A picture of Russian police detaining a protestor.
Russian police are seen carrying a detained demonstrator during the mass protest.

The conscription orders for Bezdorozhny indicated that local officials are ignoring Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s promise that only military reservists with combat experience or specialized skills would be subject to the draft.

“There’s nothing partial about the mobilization in Buryatia,” said Alexandra Garmazhapova of the Free Buryatia Foundation, who estimated that up to 5,000 men in the region were caught up in the first wave of draft orders. “They are taking everyone.”

Garmazhapova accused the Kremlin of disproportionately grabbing its conscripts from out-of-the-way portions of the massive country in an attempt to tamp down the backlash in Russia’s urban centers.

“The federal center is trying not to touch St Petersburg and Moscow, because in Moscow you can have protests against the Kremlin,” she said.

The head of the Sakha Republic, which borders the Arctic Ocean in Russia’s remote east, acknowledged Saturday that ineligible men, including fathers of young children, had been drafted improperly.

A picture of a Russian recruit kissing his wife goodbye.
A Russian recruit is seen kissing his wife outside a military recruitment center in Volgograd.

A picture of a group of young Russians walking along the border crossing Lars between Georgia and Russia.
Russian men are seen fleeing to the border crossings with Finland, Georgia and other neighboring nations.

A picture of Russian police escorting detained demonstrators into a police bus.
Russian police escorted demonstrators into a police bus during the protest.

“All those who were mobilized by mistake should be returned,” Aisen Nikolaev wrote on Telegram. “That work has already begun.”

But neither the reassurances nor the mass arrests brought the protests to a halt Saturday.

Riot police moved in on scores of demonstrators in Novosibirsk, detaining them as they linked hands and sang, BBC video showed, while girls as young as 14 were arrested in St. Petersburg, Sky News reported. Meanwhile, in the city of Omsk, video obtained by Reuters showed conscripts brawling with police who were attempting to force them onto buses.

More than 700 protesters were arrested Saturday, according to the OVD-Info human rights group.



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