Within hours of President Vladimir Putin’s speech declaring a partial military mobilization on Wednesday, men all over Russia — including some who had tried for months to ignore the messy war in Ukraine — suddenly found their lives thrown into chaos as they were summoned to duty.
The men, mostly reservists under 35 who served in the army and have junior military ranks, were handed written notices in their offices or at their homes. In some cases, they had their identity documents checked on the street and were told to appear for a health check. Others got orders by telephone.
Anxious relatives, meanwhile, began searching for ways to flee the country or otherwise avoid their loved ones being called for service. Flights to the few cities abroad still offering direct service to Russia — most destinations have been cut off by sanctions — were suddenly sold out.
Google search trends showed a spike in queries like “how to leave Russia” and even “how to break an arm at home,” raising speculation some Russians were thinking of resorting to self-harm to avoid the war.
“They’ve been chasing me since February, trying to offer me a contract,” one Moscow resident, who served in the army and has prior combat experience, said in an interview.
The man, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely, said that unlike others who had received written summonses, he had received a personal call from the military enlistment office, which has had his number on hand for months. “I was ordered to undergo a [health] commission tomorrow morning,” he told The Washington Post. “So, I doubt I will be spared now.”
Military analysts said it was far from certain that the partial mobilization would be able to turn the flagging military campaign to Russia’s advantage quickly, if at all. But by Wednesday night, it was clear that the political backlash Putin feared — and that led him to resist a mobilization for months despite repeated battlefield setbacks — had begun.
In response to Putin’s decree, criticism of the war, which had been rising internationally and at home despite a severe Kremlin crackdown on dissent, suddenly burst into the open. [Continue reading…]