“I don’t know why they took him,” said Alexei, who, like dozens of others in the office building, was rounded up and taken to the nearest military recruitment office as part of a new phase of Russia’s harsh operations .
In towns and cities across Russia, fighting-age men are hiding from officials who caught them and sent them to fight in Ukraine.
In recent days, police and military news gangs have snatched up men on the streets and outside subway stations. They lurk in apartment building lobbies handing out military subpoenas. They searched office buildings and hotels. They invaded cafes and restaurants and blocked exits.
They took more than 200 men away when they swept through the MIPSTROY1 construction company’s dormitory before dawn on Thursday. On Sunday, they rounded up dozens of people at a homeless shelter in Moscow.
News gangs seem to drop randomly. It’s terrifying — and, at times, ridiculously random. Thirty-something pacifist Alexei lives with his cat and likes to hang out with friends in bars, cafes and parks, go to concerts and plan his next Europe before being dragged away from Russia Holiday. (He and others in this report spoke on the condition that his last name be withheld out of concerns for his safety. The Washington Post has confirmed the raid but was unable to independently verify the details he provided.)
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On Tuesday, an official broke into Alexei’s office. Two police officers and several plainclothes officers arrived to demand his identification. They ordered him to go quietly with them, “or we will use force,” he said.
“I was panicking,” he said. “I’ve never been detained before. Everyone knows that if you’re in police custody in Russia, it’s very bad.”
pain With massive military casualties and repeated defeats in Ukraine, Russia has begun cannibalizing its male population. Tough pundits on state television have demanded more Ukrainian ancestry and more sacrifices from Russian men who they say are used to a life of weakness.
But the new phase of Putin’s mobilization could erode Russians’ tacit support for the war and even the prestige he has created — and could spark social unrest. Especially in Moscow and St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg, a major city largely unaffected by the war until now.
Reports from neighboring countries indicate that more than 300,000 Russian men and their families have fled Russia since the mobilization. Authorities have set up mobilization points at border crossings to prevent departures.Many people want to leave after seeing this Aggressive police raids and first reports of new recruits dying in the war.
Activist Grigory Sverdlin, who left Russia and now lives in Georgia, started a group this month called Go By The Forest to give men in Russia advice on avoiding the draft. He said the group consulted 2,700 men over 11 days and told 60 conscripts how to surrender in Ukraine. At least eight have succeeded, he said.
“Obviously, people are stressed out because they fear they’re going to be forced to shoot other people,” Sverdlin said. “So people are not only afraid of themselves, but of participating in this unjust war.”
Yevgeny, 24, quit his job as a mechanic and hid with relatives far from Moscow. He deleted his social media profiles and cut ties with friends. He works in the garden every day, he goes to bed early and watches a lot of YouTube.
“I don’t want to kill and I don’t want to be killed, so I really have to keep a low profile right now,” he said. “But even here, I don’t feel safe. We live in a time when your neighbors can report you. They might call the police and say there’s a young man in this house who should be fighting fascism in Ukraine.”
Yevgeny never supported war. Now he has stopped driving for fear of being pulled over by police. He can’t leave Russia because he doesn’t have a passport and even going to a shop in a small village is a risk.
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“I was panicking and my mom was nervous,” he said. “I’m stressed, I’m depressed. I try not to think about how long this is going to go on because you can go crazy.”
Two of his friends were even worse. He said they were drafted late last month with little training and were on their way to the front.
“I have a few friends who support this war, they believe there are Nazis there killing poor Ukrainians, Ukrainians should be liberated, etc. But they are changing their minds after mobilization. They have started asking questions and surfing the web for information,” Yevgeny said.
“They don’t want to die, especially when you don’t understand why,” he said. “what sense?”
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Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that 222,000 of the 300,000 targets had been drafted into the army, a process that will be completed within two weeks. Pro-war hardliners insist a second round will be needed.
Attacks in Moscow and St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg has been controversial, in part because the cities have suffered relatively few casualties in Ukraine. The burden of fighting was borne mainly by small ethnic and poorly educated men from poor rural areas.
Andrei Krishas, a senior member of Putin’s United Russia party, said on Friday that the conscription was illegal, a sign that the government was concerned about the city’s backlash against the raid.
“It is unacceptable to indiscriminately grab everyone on the street,” he said.
Anti-war sentiment is likely to intensify as the bodies of soldiers deployed weeks ago begin returning home for burial. Alexei Martynov, the 29-year-old head of the Moscow government department, was mobilized in September. Killed in October 23. 10. He was buried last week. In September, five soldiers from the Southern Urals were mobilized. On the 26th and September, authorities in Chelyabinsk reported that in early October, the 29th was killed in Ukraine.
A comrade from Chelyabinsk who survived the overwhelming attack in Ukraine called friends and described what happened, according to phone records released by the BBC’s Russian news agency. He said he had no training. When he fled, bodies were everywhere, he said.
“We got there on the first day and never fired a single shot, they sent us straight to an assault unit like meat with two grenade launchers. I’ve at least read the instructions on how to use them.” By day 3, the soldier and his comrades were in trenches on the front lines.
Almost every day, videos of conscripted soldiers appear on Russian social media outraged that they were not given decent uniforms, weapons, training or dormitories. Testimonies about people who should have been spared from being sent to fight are common. Moscow doctor Aleksei Sachkov, 45, signed a contract to treat wounded soldiers in Voronezh, on Russia’s border with Ukraine. In September, he stopped calling his wife Natalia. 24. A week later, she learned from a Russian military hotline that he was fighting in Ukraine as part of a tank unit, she said in a video posted online.
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As unease mounts, military-aged men are being turned away at the border when trying to leave the country. In March, weeks after Putin launched the invasion, he promised not to mobilize. But last month, he broke the tacit guarantee that only professional soldiers could take part in the conflict in exchange for passive acceptance of the war by the Russian public. The 9/21 announcement to Putin indicated that public support for the war was lower than the Kremlin claimed.
“It’s regime pain because now the pretty common perception in Russia is that the war has been lost,” Sverdrin said. “And it seems that just issuing subpoenas, detaining thousands of people and sending them to war is just buying more time for this regime. But it’s just buying time because it’s clear that these people who get caught on the streets right now don’t Will be good soldiers because they don’t know how to fight.”
As the backlash intensifies, some Russians are fighting the authorities and recording videos. A woman berates a team in her St Petersburg hall. St. Petersburg apartment building. A Russian truck driver has posted video of himself confronting a police officer and a military recruiting officer who tried to take him to the recruiting office.
“Regarding your mobilization, I’m dismissive. You’re a qualified person, not me. After all, you have a gun, not me. Why don’t you mobilize yourself?”
The police tried to write an allegation asking the driver for documents.
“I won’t give you my documents. Why should I?” the truck driver said, “If you can’t create order in your country, why create it in another country? How? Destroy it completely like that?”
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He said that in the raucous hustle and bustle of the enlistment office where Alexei ended, many were agitated, some angry, and some huddled on themselves. One by one, they lined up at the office and were asked to sign military orders, submit documents and undergo medical examinations. Many were office workers who were caught on the street. Several “weird people” told Alexey they were volunteers looking for exciting lifestyle changes.
What shocked him was how many people meekly put on the military uniforms handed to them and let themselves be taken away, apparently directly to the training base. One of his colleagues was among them.
“I see people lost and confused and very weak at the same time,” he said. “They didn’t want to fight for themselves. They got the paperwork and dutifully signed everything. They didn’t focus. They just stared into space as if they had given up.”
For Alexei, the threats and bravado continued for hours as officials forced him to sign a military subpoena. He refused. The police were called.them No action was taken, but a guard at the gate would not let him leave.
He watched nervous people line up. Drunk city workers are sleeping. An elite member of the Russian Guards special police has lashed out at attempts to recruit him.
Alexei calls a lawyer. He entered the military commissioner’s office, filmed him with a cell phone, and demanded to know the legal basis for his detention.
“He was angry and yelled at me to leave his office.” At 8 p.m., he was finally allowed to leave. Now he wants to leave Russia but fears he will be drafted at the border.
“I want to wait until this is over, in a safe place.”