Russian Citizens Revolt Against Putin As War Effort Backfires

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As protests inside Russia against authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin’s mobilization — meaning draft — plans for the war in Ukraine continue, those expressing their outrage are turning to new tactics, including gunfire.

In a Monday incident, Russian man Ruslan Zinin, who was identified as in his mid-20s, shot the chief recruitment officer at a Russian military office in Ust-Ilimsk, which is a small jurisdiction in Russia’s Irkutsk region. The targeted officer was hospitalized in critical condition but, as of recent local updates, hadn’t died. The shooter’s mother said that he was outraged over his best friend receiving draft orders despite no previous military experience. The governor of the region, Igor Kobzev, said the assailant would face punishment. “The shooter was immediately arrested, and he will definitely be punished,” Kobzev said on Telegram. “I can’t wrap my head around what happened, and I am ashamed that this is happening at a time when, on the contrary, we should be united.”

“They said that there would be partial mobilization, but it turns out that they take everyone,” Zinin’s mother told a Russian media outlet. Thousands are turning out to express opposition to Putin’s mobilization plans, including in Moscow, and since announcing the initiative, authorities have detained over 2,300 demonstrators across the country. There is an overwhelming push by some to leave Russia. Flights to areas that don’t require visas were selling out, but Russians exiting the country turned to travel by car, bicycle, and foot. As of a recently issued update from a blogger involved in assisting Russians with settling in Georgia, there was an up to three-day waiting period for getting into the country, which borders Russia, because of long lines.

Russian authorities are expected to potentially close the borders to military-aged men as soon as Wednesday, the day after voting in sham referendums in occupied Ukrainian territory on the question of politically joining Russia is set to conclude. There is no formal limit included in publicly available details from Putin’s draft order on the number of new soldiers that the government is assembling. Separately, there have also been reports of attempts at forcing individuals from occupied Ukrainian territory into service for Putin’s army.

Protests were also documented in Dagestan, which is a region of Russia populated by a mostly Muslim community. A Twitter account associated with the government of Ukraine highlighted a video clip it said depicted women in the region confronting local authorities. “Dagestan women protest Putin’s criminal mobilization,” the account said. “We thank them for their bravery and urge others to join. Do not let Putin pay for his failed military adventures with lives of your close ones.” According to footage available on social media, large groups are in the streets in the region, which is in the western portions of Russia. In one clip identified as showing a protest scene, there is audible gunfire.

Areas including Dagestan and others with indigenous populations are facing pushes from the government for troops at a rate higher than others, according to local sources. With tens of thousands of Russian soldiers dying in Ukraine as the targeted country fights to keep itself free of Putin’s brutal domination, those sent to participate in the war — who, per recent mobilization efforts, include those whose age or health status should mean they are exempt under the relevant legal standards — are getting sent to a highly possible death.