As military officers across Russia race to enlist hundreds of thousands of men to fight in Ukraine, the Kremlin is also looking to bolster its flagging recruitment efforts by dragooning Ukrainians in occupied territories to fight against their own nation.
In two regions, Kherson and Zaporizka, the Russian occupiers are beginning to round up men to fight even as they are also forcing residents to vote in a sham referendum on joining Russia. All men ages 18 to 35 have been forbidden to leave and ordered to report for military duty, according to witnesses and Ukrainian officials, who say that many men are now in hiding or looking to escape.
Since President Vladimir V. Putin declared a “partial mobilization” last week that is sweeping up hundreds of thousands of Russians, Moscow’s forces in Ukraine “don’t let men out,” said Halyna Odnorih, a coordinator in the city of Zaporizhzhia for people who have escaped occupied regions. “Many people are calling us and asking whether we could help them to evacuate. But unfortunately we can’t.”
The drive to compel Ukrainians to fight against other Ukrainians is part of a broader effort by Moscow to mobilize hundreds of thousands of new fighters as its forces suffer huge casualties and struggle to hold off Ukrainian advances in the east and south.
It also shows how the Kremlin is defying international condemnation and pushing forward with efforts to cleave Ukraine. Voting in staged referendums continued on Sunday in four occupied regions amid a backdrop of violence and repression, a likely prelude to an announcement of annexation by Moscow that Ukrainian officials warned could come as soon as next week. After that, analysts warn, the Kremlin could declare the areas Russian territory and protected by the might of its full arsenal, including the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. [Continue reading…]