Russia’s “partial mobilization” for its war in Ukraine is off to a chaotic start amid protests, drafting mistakes and an exodus of citizens fleeing Russia, as the Kremlin tightens rules around evading military orders.
Some residents in Russia’s Far East Sakha Republic were conscripted “by mistake” despite not being eligible for mobilization, according to a local leader.
“All who were mobilized by mistake must be returned back. This work has already begun,” the republic’s head Aisen Nikolaev said in a Telegram post, following a meeting on the presidential decree on partial mobilization.
“Such extremes are absolutely unacceptable. And, in my opinion, the harsh reaction we are seeing in society is deserved,” Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of Russia’s Federation Council, said in a post on Telegram.
In a direct address to Russia’s regional governors, Matviyenko said they were “fully responsible for carrying out mobilization campaigns” in “full and absolute compliance with the announced criteria.”
Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, echoed Matviyenko’s calls for due diligence, adding, “If a mistake is made, it must be corrected.”
Meanwhile, videos circulating on Russian social media appear to reveal the tensions, sadness and confusion that the draft — which began after a Wednesday announcement — has sparked, with scenes of families saying emotional goodbyes and others of recruits arguing about being called up.
Some background: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday significantly raised the stakes of his assault on Ukraine for ordinary Russians, with the announcement of an immediate “partial mobilization” in a bid to reinforce his faltering invasion following Ukrainian gains.
The mobilization would only affect Russians with previous military experience, according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who said 300,000 reservists would be called up. However, the decree itself gives much broader terms, sowing fears among Russians of a wider draft in the future.
Activist groups, such as Free Buryatia Foundation, have said ethnic minorities in Russia are being disproportionately mobilized. CNN has geolocated videos of some of these men being mobilized in Russia’s Far East regions