“The spirit of assembly is the grave.”
After President Vladimir Putin issued a partial mobilization order, saying he would “mobilize all his forces” in the Ukraine war, protests have continued in Russia until the 22nd (local time). The partial mobilization order, which President Putin said he signed on the 21st, aims to send 300,000 reserve troops to the battlefield. Some of them have already been informed of coercion, and the foreign media said that Russian society is in a state of turmoil.
“I don’t want to die for Putin”
The coined word ‘Mogilizatsia’ (Mogilizatsia), born after Dongwonryeong, is a representative example. It is a combination of ‘movement’ and ‘grave’ (mogila) in Slavic. It reflects the fear of not wanting to lose their lives in war. Alexander (33), who finished his military service 15 years ago, said, “I would rather leave than fight in this war. “If you summon me, I will leave this country.” “I know it’s a lot more dangerous than they say. If not, why would you even want to conscript?” he told The Guardian. According to Russian statistics, 5937 Russians were killed in the war in Ukraine. The West believes this figure is lower than it really is.
Protests continue across Russia. OVD-Info, an international human rights group, reported that 1,311 people were arrested during anti-war rallies in 38 Russian cities. At least 502 people were arrested in Moscow and at least 524 in St Petersburg. Demonstrations were held not only in the capital Moscow, where the police were relatively strong, and in St Petersburg, the second city, but also in central Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk in Siberia. It was the first anti-war protests across Russia since the start of the war, Reuters reported. “Wednesday’s (21st) protests are the largest public discontent since the invasion of Ukraine,” reported the Washington Post.
At the rally, there were voices condemning Putin. In Old Arbat, a pedestrian street in the center of Moscow, he chanted slogans such as “Send Putin to the trenches”, “Save our children” and “I don’t want to die for Putin”. “The Movement Order means that thousands of Russian men, including our fathers, brothers and husbands, are thrown into the meat grinder of war. What are they dying for? Putin’s Palace?” “At first, the government said that only ‘professional soldiers’ would fight and win. (But) it turned out to be unwinnable. Now the war has reached our homes.”
Unauthorized gatherings are illegal in Russia. The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office has warned that organizing or participating in protests could be punished with up to 15 years in prison. The charge of distributing false information about the military is also punishable by up to 15 years in prison. In St Petersburg, police were also seen beating protesters with batons and dispersing them. At a rally in Novosibirsk, a man was arrested after shouting at a police officer, “I don’t want to die for Putin and for you.”
Those already notified of coercion continue to ‘Escape Russia’
According to the WP, young men under the age of 35 who are eligible for reservists have already received notices of conscription at work or at home. In some cases, military officials directly requested notification by telephone. Some have been notified to attend a 15-day military exercise that begins next Monday. They were instructed to attend a health check. Because of this, search terms such as ‘how to leave Russia’ and ‘how to break an arm at home’ have risen dramatically in Google search trends.
The ‘escape march’ that was leaving Russia was also reproduced. Shortly after the start of the war on February 24th, ‘déjà vu’ appeared as the Russians fled abroad. Anna, who has decided to send her two sons to Armenia this week, said, “I was trying to calm myself while waiting for this military operation (Ukraine war) to end. But I don’t want my son to go to war. It is unacceptable,” he told WP. One of his two sons is 24 years old. “What is the purpose of this military campaign? Why should our children sacrifice their lives? We never wanted this war.”
One-way flights to Turkey and Armenia, where Russians can now go without a visa, have soared and sold out. Some people flocked to the border between Finland and Mongolia, forming long traffic jams at checkpoints, and an online chat room was created to share the border situation in real time, WP said. An office worker in Moscow said, “I’m worried it might be too late to leave. The only ticket I can find is already over $16,000 and I can’t afford it,” he told The WP. One millionaire said: “There are no tickets, and it’s getting harder and harder to travel overland. If there are additional restrictions (movement) due to partial removal, it may not be possible to leave. Everyone sees this war as a foolish mistake,” he told the media.
War or imprisonment … Possibility of expansion of mobilization orders
Russian men who do not want to go to war, or are they punished for desertion? “Russians who have left may also be punished if they do not return even if they are conscripted,” the Guardian said. Russia recently passed a new law criminalizing emigration. If you do not comply with the conscription order, you will be considered a deserter and could face up to 10 years in prison.
There is also the possibility that the partial mobilization order could be expanded in the future. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on the 21st that “only a small percentage of those who have had prior relevant combat and service experience will be mobilized.” However, it is unclear what level of combat experience and training is meant, the Associated Press noted. In Russia, one year of military service is compulsory for men aged 18 to 27.
Shoigu explained that the mobilization order was intended to control “already liberated territories.” This refers to the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) which declared independence in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. The region is due to hold a referendum on annexation with Russia from the 23rd.