“Collision of East and West”
On Wednesday, Putin ordered Moscow’s first wartime mobilization since World War II, planning to immediately begin recruiting about 300,000 troops to fight on the front lines.
He cited the invasion of Ukraine, which began in February and has killed thousands, displaced millions from their homes and reduced towns to rubble, as the decisive East-West conflict.
Mobilizing Russia may be the most dangerous domestic political move in Putin’s two decades in power. The Kremlin has promised not to do such a thing when Russia faces a string of battlefield failures.
Fears of being drafted quickly sold out flights from Russia, and imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny called for mass demonstrations against the mobilization.
The independent protest watchdog group OVD-Info said nearly 1,400 people had been detained at protests in 38 Russian cities by Wednesday night.
Associated Press journalists in Moscow witnessed at least 12 arrests in the first 15 minutes of nightly protests in the capital. Heavily armored police confronted demonstrators in front of the store and took some away while shouting “No war!”
“I am not afraid of anything. The most valuable thing they can take from us is the life of our children. I will not give them the lives of my children.” said a Muscovite who declined to give her name.
Asked if protesting would help, she said, “It doesn’t help, but it is my civic duty to take my stand. No to war!”
In Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city, police took some of the 40 protesters detained at an anti-war rally onto a bus.
A woman in a wheelchair exclaimed, referring to the Russian president. He’s going to bomb us, and we’re still protecting him. ”
The anti-Vesna movement called for protests, stating: what do they die for? What are mothers and children crying about? ”
The Moscow Public Prosecutor’s Office has warned that organizing or participating in protests could result in up to 15 years in prison. Authorities have issued similar warnings ahead of other protests. Wednesday was the first nationwide anti-war protests since fighting began in late February.
In a televised address, Putin ordered military conscription, announced a move to annex four Ukrainian provinces, threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, and declared “it’s not a bluff.”
Thousands of Russians rushed to book one-way tickets out of the country, which were still possible on Wednesday, but traffic reaching Finland’s eastern border with Russia “increased” during the night.
A pro-Russian figure has announced that the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia provinces, representing about 15% of Ukraine’s territory, will hold referendums from September 23-27.
“President Putin has recklessly ignored the responsibility of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and made blatant nuclear threats against Europe today,” US President Joe Biden said in his address to the United Nations General Assembly. .
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denounced Putin’s “irresponsible escalation of the war”, saying that “Putin’s actions only show that his aggression is failing.”
European Union foreign ministers on Wednesday agreed to prepare new sanctions against Russia and increase arms deliveries to Kyiv.
“It is clear that Putin wants to destroy Ukraine,” European Union Foreign Minister Josep Borrell told reporters after a ministerial meeting decided how to respond.
Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said foreign ministers from the advanced nations of the Group of Seven (G7) countries confirmed their cooperation in expanding aid to Ukraine at a meeting in New York on Wednesday.
Russia and Ukraine Made an unexpected prisoner exchange on Wednesdaythe largest since the war began, and involved nearly 300 people, including 10 foreigners and the commander who led the long-running defense of Mariupol, Ukraine, earlier this year.
The released foreigners included two Britons and one Moroccan. The Saudi ministry also said three Britons, two Americans, one Croatian and one Swede were released in a Saudi brokered deal.
The freed Ukrainians, who were captured after a lengthy battle in the port city of Mariupol earlier this year, included the army’s commander-in-chief, said Andriy Yermak of Zelensky’s office.
Some Western military experts say that drafting hundreds of thousands of recruits would take months, would do little to slow Russia’s losses, and would take resources from the battlefield to train and equip recruits. He said it could even make things worse.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said 5,937 Russian soldiers had died since the start of the conflict in his first update on Moscow casualties in almost half a year.
In Russia, where all independent media are shut down and public criticism of “special military operations” is forbidden, the war has so far appeared to have popular support.
But for many ordinary Russians, especially the urban middle class, the prospect of being sent into battle would be the first hint of war that would affect them personally.
In the Moscow metro, a man was seen studying the draft papers.
“You always feel anxious in moments like this because you have a wife and kids and you think about it,” said one resident.
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