Putin’s draft draws resistance in remote regions of Russia

President Vladimir V. Putin’s surprise draft to bolster his invasion of Ukraine was met with growing resistance across Russia on Friday as villagers, activists and even some officials Elected officials questioned why the mandatory movement seemed to hit minorities and rural areas harder than large cities.

Some of the greatest anguish took place hundreds or thousands of miles from the front lines, in the Caucasus Mountains and northeastern Yakutia, a sparsely populated region in the middle of the Arctic Circle. Community leaders describe remote villages, where the majority of working-age males have received notices of enlistment in recent days, leaving families living on land with no men around. have to work before the long winter.

“We have reindeer herders, hunters, fishermen – we have too few anyway,” said Vyacheslav Shadrin, chairman of the council of elders of a small indigenous group known as the Yukaghirs, said in a phone interview. “But most of them are things that are being drafted.”

Mr. Putin Called notification on Wednesday, describing it as a “partial mobilization” needed against Ukraine and its Western supporters, who he said were seeking Russia’s destruction. It was a move he had do long delayeven as supporters of war support the draft to allow Russia to step up its offensive.

Russia will mobilize about 300,000 civilians, defense officials said, focusing on men with military experience and special skills, although some Russian media currently operate outside the country. It is reported that this number could be much higher.

But by Friday, even some of the hawkish commentators who had urged a draft were critical of the way it looked like it would be rolled out widely and unevenly. A popular pro-war blog on Telegram, Rybar, describes receiving “a large number of stories” about people with health problems or no combat experience receiving draft notifications, even when some volunteers were turned down.

The hawk warned that, instead of helping Russia’s war effort, chaos could end up harming the country. And some say that military officials carrying out orders are more concerned with carrying out orders formally than winning the war.

Andrei Medvedev, a Moscow lawmaker and state TV presenter, wrote on Telegram: “If we are doing a maneuver, it should be the foundation for strengthening the army. “And not the cause of the upheaval.”

In Yakutia, an association representing the region’s main ethnic group, the Sakha, warned the draft could have dire consequences there. The group sent a letter to Putin saying that mobilization could lead to the “elimination of the male component in the already sparsely populated northern districts of Yakutia”.

And even a member of the Russian Parliament who represents the region, Sardana V. Avksentieva, Written on social media on Thursday that she had heard of a 300-person village in which 47 men were called up.

“What is the logic of these numbers?” she asked, asserting that people in rural areas are being conscripted at a higher rate than in cities. “What proportion are we talking about?”

There were signs of unrest soon after Mr. Putin published the draft, although he said it was only “partial”. It seemed that all social groups were affected to some extent – breaking the sense of normalcy that the Kremlin sought to maintain inside Russia during the first seven months of the war. One new wave of Russian packed flights, cars and buses out of the country. And Russian businesses, including airlines, technology companies and agricultural companies, are concerned about how the call might affect them, the Kommersant newspaper reported.

Amid those questions, the Russian Defense Ministry said that Russian men with certain jobs in banking, IT and telecommunications would not be called to war. In Congress, lawmakers have promised escrowers to halt loan payments and require employers to keep their jobs.

For all the improvisation, it seems that the Kremlin is aware of the political risks of ordering civilians to serve. Analysts say Putin has refused to announce a draft, despite his army widespread shortage of manpower and heavy damage, fearing a domestic backlash.

Remote areas, ethnic minority groups and rural areas appear to be hardest hit, at least in the first place. Kirill Shamiev, who studies Russia’s military-civilian relations at Central European University in Vienna, says that’s because remote regions and marginalized groups are seen as less likely to protest. than.

“The Kremlin is doing what it’s been doing forever,” he said. “Its first filter is to preserve Vladimir Putin’s power in Russia. That is why the number of people being called up to the army is significantly higher in regions, rural areas, small towns”.

However, he said, the Kremlin’s “obey or you will be persecuted” approach could backfire when conscripts return from the front lines to tell the truth about the war to their communities. .

“The risks to Vladimir Putin personally have increased dramatically, because the military and the defense sector” have become core elements of the Kremlin’s legitimacy, he said.

Interviews with people in three predominantly Muslim regions of Russia’s Caucasus Mountains reveal fear of widespread mobilization. In Chechnya, one small business owner described seeing few men on the streets of Grozny, the capital, and said a mosque that usually overflows on Fridays was a third empty.

In Kabardino-Balkaria, a local activist reported that a village of 2,500 people had seen 38 conscripts, and there were rumors of young men injuring themselves to avoid imprisoned. But few people object, he said, because civic life has been virtually liquidated.

And in Ingushetia, a Russian Army officer said he was trying to avoid going to Ukraine.

“People were almost panicking,” he said. “Police are stopping cars and delivering draft notices.”

All remain anonymous for fear of retribution. Rooslan Totrov, a journalist from the Caucasus region of North Ossetia now based in Dubai, said that the draft has become a “reality check” for supporters of the war from afar.

“As soon as this suddenly starts to affect your loved ones, loved ones and acquaintances, there is a natural, human and defensive response,” he said. “The first question a lot of people have started asking is: Why?”

In the isolated settlements of Yakutia, where high-speed Internet is often lacking, Russian state television remains the most important source of news for many. Mr. Shadrin, the leader of the Yukaghir community, describes members of his Indigenous group – scattered in small villages across the vast region – as outspoken supporters of the Kremlin. But after trying to handle panic phone calls from moms this week, he thinks that could change.

“Putin’s support” has fallen off the charts” in rural Yakutia, Mr. Shadrin said. “Now I think a sanity is starting to happen.”

At a reindeer farming business, he said, four out of 20 herders were drafted. Among the Yukaghirs, he said, he knew of seven men who had been called up, and he expected the number to increase as the hunters and herders returned to their villages and received summons order. The total population of the Yukaghirs, he said, is about 1,600, including just 400 males between the ages of 18 and 45.

Several community organizations published open letters requesting the suspension of the draft for ethnic minorities in the region, asserting that even during World War II, the Soviet Arctic’s indigenous peoples did not mobilized because there were so few of them.

“Our villages are small and every man is worth in gold,” Ivan Shamayev, Speaker of the Sakha Parliament and signer of a letter, said in a phone interview. “Villages would hardly survive without men, and that’s why they needed to figure this out.”

Perhaps most shocking to area residents, some said in an interview, was that the draft came at a time when households scrambled to prepare for winter. Like many places in Siberia, Yakutia is significantly reshaped by climate changewith rapidly rising temperatures thaw the permafrost and contribute to devastating floods.

Warning messages about the mobilization circulated on WhatsApp. A local activist passed on some of the pleas for help she had received. One is from a woman in the Verkhoyansk district, an area of ​​Siberia where temperatures can drop to minus 90 degrees Fahrenheit. She wrote that her son had not finished fixing the floor, which had to be demolished after a summer flood.

“He has two young children, his wife is pregnant, I just had an operation,” the woman wrote. “I don’t know how we’ll get through the winter.”

The activist, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, said that the Yakuti had watched the war on television and knew Putin’s argument that it was a fight to protect their country. But so far, it’s all very abstract.

“On television, they say this is about defending the Fatherland,” she said. “But the threat now is not so much to the Fatherland but to our own lives.”

Alina Lobzina, Ivan Nechepurenko and Valerie Hopkins contribution report.

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