Russia sends anti-war protesters to army amid nationwide demonstrations: Monitoring group

In the city of Neryongi – six time zones in eastern Ukraine – a community video channel posted videos of families saying goodbye to a large group of men as they boarded buses. The video shows a woman crying and hugging her husband goodbye, while he extends his daughter’s hand from the bus window.

More men were seen in other videos apparently waiting for transport in Yakutia, a vast region of Siberia, and at Magadan airport in Russia’s far east. CNN was unable to independently determine the geolocation or date of all published videos.

In an early sign of how seriously Moscow is stepping up its efforts, Russia’s Human Rights Council has proposed that migrants from Central Asian countries who acquired Russian citizenship less than 10 years ago be subject to compulsory military service in Russia for a year.

Council member Kirill Kabanov wrote: “We are preparing proposals for new citizens of the Russian Federation with Russian citizenship for less than 10 years to perform one-year compulsory military service for people from Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.” On Telegram Thursday.

“Refusal to perform military service should entail deprivation of Russian citizenship not only for the person responsible for military service, but also for members of his family,” he added.

Controversy in Russia

In his speech, Putin said that those with military experience will be subject to conscription, and stressed that the accompanying decree – which has already been signed – is necessary “to protect our homeland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

But the decree appears to allow for a broader mobilization than he suggested in his speech. Ekaterina Shulman, a Russian political science professor and associate fellow at the Chatham House think-tank, said on Telegram that while the decree describes the mobilization as partial, it “does not set standards for this bias, whether regional or categorical.”

“According to this provision, anyone can be called except for those who work in the military-industrial complex who have been exempted for the duration of their employment. The fact that mobilization applies only to reservists or those who have some particularly necessary skill is mentioned in the title, but not in Decree”.

Russian human rights lawyer Pavel Chekhov said the decree defines mobilization “in the broadest scope”.

“The president leaves it at the discretion of the defense minister. So in fact, it is the Russian Ministry of Defense that will decide who to send to war, from where and in numbers,” Chekhov said on Telegram.

After the speech, at least 1,300 people were arrested across Russia on Wednesday for participating in nationwide anti-war protests — with some being directly drafted into the military, according to a monitoring group, after leader Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of citizens. for his faltering invasion of Ukraine.

Pictures and videos show police cracking down on protesters in several cities. with clips Several protesters appear at a demonstration in central Moscow being taken away by police and authorities in Saint Petersburg in an attempt to contain a crowd chanting “No to mobilization” outside Isakiivskiy Cathedral.

Police detained protesters in 38 cities in Russia on Wednesday, according to figures released shortly after midnight by independent monitoring group OVD-Info. A spokeswoman for the group, Maria Kuznetsova, told CNN by phone that at least four police stations in Moscow, and some protesters arrested by riot police are being directly recruited into the Russian army.

She said one of the detainees was threatened with prosecution for refusing to enlist. The government said the penalty for rejecting the bill is now 15 years in prison. Of the more than 1,300 people arrested across the country, more than 500 were in Moscow and more than 520 in Saint Petersburg, according to OVD-Info.

OVD-Info also said that more than half of the detained protesters whose names were released are women, making it the largest anti-government protest by a proportion of women in recent history. The watchdog has determined that the full scope of the arrests remains unknown.

She added that nine journalists and 33 minors are also among those arrested, adding that one of the minors was “severely beaten” by law enforcement authorities.

The specter of nuclear weapons

Putin also raised the specter of nuclear weapons in his speech, saying he would use “every means available to us” if he deemed Russia’s “territorial integrity” to be endangered. He also supported the referendums on joining Russia that Russia-appointed leaders in the four occupied regions of Ukraine announced they would hold this week.

Concern among Russian citizens was evident on Wednesday, as travel agency websites showed a significant increase in demand for flights to places where Russians do not need to. visa. Flight sale sites indicate that direct flights to these countries are sold until at least Friday.

On Thursday, a European Commission spokesperson acknowledged that there had been numerous applications from Russian citizens hoping to enter the European Union. They said that the European Union plans to establish a common position on this issue.

The European Commission also noted that for the time being, each member state will need to assess entry applications on a case-by-case basis, adding that the management of the EU’s external borders must be carried out in line with EU law and comply with “essential” rights and all applicable legislation. them for asylum procedures.

Riot police arrest a protester during an anti-war demonstration in Moscow, Russia, on September 21.
The protests in Russia, most of which seemed to attract a few dozen people, were another strong signal of the desperation some feel. Dissent is usually quickly crushed in Russia, and authorities have imposed further restrictions on free speech in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.

Social media footage showed several protesters in Ulan-Ude, eastern Siberia, holding banners reading “No to war! No to mobilization!” and “Our husbands, fathers, and brothers do not want to kill other husbands and fathers!”

“We want our fathers, our husbands and our brothers to survive…and not leave their children as orphans. Stop the war and don’t take our people!” said one of the protesters.

A video clip from Yekaterinburg in western Russia showed police clashing with a number of protesters. CNN was unable to independently verify the footage from either city.

Another video posted online by a journalist from the newspaper The Village in Moscow shows dozens of people on Arbatskaya Street chanting “Let him go” while one is carried away.

On Wednesday, the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office also warned citizens against joining the protests or publishing information calling for participation – reminding people that they could face up to 15 years in prison.

Asked on Thursday about reports of people detained at anti-war rallies handing out summons for military conscription, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the practice “does not go against the law. There is no violation of the law here.”

‘Russia wants war’

Putin’s announcement Wednesday was condemned by Western leaders, many of whom met at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

In a rare joint statement, British Prime Minister Liz Truss and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said they both agreed Putin’s announcement of the partial mobilization of Russian citizens as a sign of “weakness”.

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, told reporters that the European Union’s foreign ministers agreed in New York to go ahead with a new round of sanctions against Russia.

Ukraine has remained defiant in the face of Putin’s announcement, with President Volodymyr Zelensky telling the United Nations General Assembly in a pre-recorded address on Wednesday that Russia “fears real (peace) negotiations,” citing what he called Russian “lies”.

Zelensky said Russia was “talking about talks but announcing a military mobilization”. Russia wants war.

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said Thursday that Putin’s “partial mobilization” only strengthens the country’s support for Ukraine. French Defense Minister Sebastien Licornu said his country will continue to support Ukraine in terms of armaments and training, but added that France needs cooperation within NATO to do so.

Meanwhile, an analysis by researchers from the Institute for the Study of War said the move would not have a noticeable impact on the immediate outcome of the war.

The analysis said it would take weeks or months to bring reservists to combat readiness, that Russian reservists were “poorly trained at first,” and that “deliberate phasing” of deployments outlined by the Russian defense minister were likely to prevent “any sudden influx of Russian forces that could potentially lead to an increase in reservists.” It changes the course of the war dramatically.”

Katja Krebs, Ulyana Pavlova, Gianluca Mezofiori, Anastasia Graham Yule, Sugam Pokharel, Claire Sebastian, Idris Mokhtar, Nadine Schmidt, Lauren Kent and Stephanie Halas contributed to this report.

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