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Russians defy conscription decree

One pastor tells parishioners to tear up their draft notices


Russians at the Kazbegi border crossing in Stepantsminda, Georgia. Getty Images/Photo by Davit Kachkachishvili/Anadolu Agency

Russians defy conscription decree

Vehicles lined up for nearly 10 miles this week at the border crossing from Russia into Georgia. In the rush to avoid military conscription, almost 194,000 Russians have fled the country, neighboring governments report.

President Vladimir Putin announced the mobilization on Sept. 21. It is the first military call-up in Russia since World War II.

The government said it intends to draft 300,000 people to fight in Ukraine, but the real number might be higher. In the conscription decree, the section regarding the number of recruits is classified.

The next day, locals in Magdan, Russia, reported that mobilized soldiers from their city had been sent to Ukraine the evening before. By morning, all regions of Russia had begun mobilizing.

How much or how quickly the mobilization will strengthen the army is not yet clear. In addition to soldiers, the Russian army also needs weapons. Some conscripts posted videos to social media showing they had received rusty, old machine guns.

Mykhailo Samus, a Ukrainian military expert and director of the New Geopolitics Research Network, said he thinks many of the conscripts will end up at the very front of the fighting.

“These untrained military people are likely to be sent to … so-called reconnaissance by combat,” Samus told the independent Russian channel Rain TV. “In any attack and in any assault, they are sent first, that is, they go to the combat positions of the Ukrainian army, identify these positions at the cost of their lives because the Ukrainian army begins to destroy them, and then Russian artillery strikes these identified positions. But all the soldiers thrown forward die.”

Protesters have ralled in Russian cities chanting slogans like, “No war.” In St. Petersburg, the protesters chanted, “Putin in the trenches!” Authorities cracked down on protests, and police detained more than 1,300 people. Some of those arrested said they received a conscription notice while they were in detention. Others face criminal imprisonment.

In Chechnya, in the south of the country, 130 women took to the square to protest against their husbands and children going to the front. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said there would be no mobilization in Chechnya. The Kremlin has not yet reacted to Kadyrov’s statement.

According to Rain TV, now based in Latvia, there are regularly open confrontations and skirmishes between the military and the men who are being drafted. In the Siberian village of Bolsherechye, recruits attacked and beat police and military officers who forcibly put them on a bus.

Russians with religious beliefs that prevent them from fighting in wars find themselves in a difficult position because requests for exemptions based on religion are disregarded.

Protestant pastor Alexander (WORLD is withholding his last name for safety reasons) said he is encouraging churchgoers to tear up the conscription summons they will receive, saying it’s better to go to jail than to be forced to fight.

“People are tired of the war and of false propaganda,” he said. “We believe the time will come and this black page of Russia's history will be turned over. On a new blank sheet of paper, other words will be written, words about peace and words about repentance. In the meantime, you need to endure all this, carry it on your shoulders, carry this cross, if necessary, even to Golgotha.”

Listen to an audio version of this story on The World and Everything in It podcast.

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