Russia Imposes Draft

By: Dell Dumont

Graphics Editor

As the war in Ukraine entered a new chapter, Russian President Vladimir Putin imposed a draft intending to collect 300,000 Russian civilians for military training and service. Thousands of Russians received draft papers with instructions on where to report for duty. Soldiers marched male citizens to buses and planes for training. Putin’s actions mark the first time since World War II that the Kremlin has declared wartime mobilization. Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Sergeyevich Peskov, continues to cite the invasion in Ukraine as a “special military operation” and the draft a “partial mobilization” of soldiers. 

The draft announcement caught many Russians off guard as public opinion polls by the Levada Center, Russia’s leading independent polling group, show that Putin’s approval ratings dropped from 80 percent in August 2022 to 72 percent in September 2022. Other pollster websites like Russian Field and Russian Watcher show that Russian support for the war stands around 72 to 77 percent.

Thousands of citizens have fled Russia to avoid the draft, finding shelter in  countries including Kazakhstan, Estonia, Lithuania, and Turkey. Since the draft’s announcement, an estimated 200,000 citizens have crossed into Kazakhstan and over 100,000 in Estonia. Citizens escaping across the border waited in line for days to cross and escape conscription. Russian families bought plane and train tickets on short notice fearing they would be sent to fight on behalf of their government. Those who have fled to outside countries find themselves struggling to find accommodations, like jobs.

  Apart from traveling by air, rail, and road, some Russian draftees have gone to incredible lengths to avoid enlistment. Videos emerged on various platforms showing young men self-inflicting severe injuries to break bones and disable themselves, in order to physically disqualify themselves.

The rise of protests against conscription in Russia reflects the growing number of fearful Russian citizens. Polls revealing a decrease in support for this war indicate that the sudden compulsory military service compelled previously uninformed families to reconsider the kind of actions the Russian government had taken. Despite Putin’s best efforts to justify his invasion and avoid any transparency with Russian citizens, the draft could undermine Russian domestic support for the war effort.

(Sources: Forbes, NY Times, The Moscow Times, Foreign Policy, NPR, Politico, Reuters)

Categories: News, World

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