Russian mobilization lambasted as organized referendums continue

As senior Russian officials warned on Sunday of problems with Moscow’s hasty mobilization of troops to fight in Ukraine, Russia launched fresh attacks on Odessa, where three Iranian suicide bombers struck an administrative building, and against the Zaporizhzhia region, which was hit by several Russian missiles. overnight.

Russia’s mobilization campaign and the Kremlin’s staging of five-day illegal ‘referendums’ in four occupied regions of Ukraine mark a sharp escalation by President Vladimir Putin in his efforts to hold the line in the war on Israel. Ukraine in response to multiple Russian military failures. , including a major retreat to the Kharkiv region earlier this month.

scuffles broken Sunday in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, where screaming women struggled with police, trying to stop them from dragging male protesters to police vans, in rare signs of dissent that underscored the dangers of regional unrest over the of mobilization.

Earlier Sunday in Dagestan, an impoverished southern region that has suffered a disproportionate share of military casualties in Ukraine, furious locals blocked a mobilization on the highway after 110 men from the village of Endirey were conscripted, some of whom had recently returned from the war, local independent media reported.

The holding of referendums, amid warnings from Russian officials that Moscow may use nuclear weapons to defend illegally annexed regions, appears destined to shake Ukraine’s resolve and undermine Western military support for Kyiv.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said Putin’s actions instead underscored that the Russian military “is no longer in a position to fight with Ukraine.” … We have become even more united than ever.

While armed soldiers accompanied officials from house to house to watch people fill out ballot papers, the referendums failed to meet any of the basic criteria for democratic voting and are illegal under international law.

Putin is expected to address both houses of parliament on Friday, state media reported, where he is likely to approve the regions’ annexation after the expected official announcement that the regions voted in favor of joining Russia. Russia has a long history of flawed and fraudulent elections, but the Kremlin won’t settle for anything less than a massive “yes” vote, analysts say.

Putin, says Zelensky, will say, “Now it’s Russia. This is our territory. Listen, we have held referendums. Now the West is attacking Russia. Now the West is attacking our territories.

Yet even Serbia, a close ally of Moscow, rejected the referendums, when its foreign minister, Nikola Selakovic, told reporters that they violated the principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty and the inviolability of borders, according to the Serbian cable network Nova.rs on Sunday and the Russian state. owned by RIA Novosti.

Ukrainian officials said no one was injured in Sunday’s drone strikes on Odessa, but video footage of a large explosion in the city center underscored the potential of Iranian drones to wreak destruction and terror in civilian areas and to unbalance Ukraine.

Russian state media reported that a Ukrainian strike on a hotel in Kherson killed a former pro-Kremlin Ukrainian lawmaker, Oleksiy Zhuravko.

Moscow, meanwhile, continued to have its own problems, with renewed protests on Sunday against a mobilization effort so mishandled it sparked widespread anger and controversy, even among Russian officials and leading propagandists.

There have been dozens of reports of men enlisted when they were elderly, ill, disabled, unfit or exempt from military service, for example, because they were caring for a disabled family member or were students or computer scientists.

Alarm over the mobilization underscored its potential for opposition among the large segment of Russia’s population that passively supports the war – although the Kremlin may bank on waning anger after the initial shock and fear that followed the announcement.

Alexei, a 36-year-old Russian who was exempted from conscription due to heart problems, said in a phone interview on Sunday that he fled to Astana, Kazakhstan, because he could be called while he had previously been exempted from military service for medical reasons. .

“There are already so many examples of elderly, unfit men and students receiving summonses,” he said. “What is happening with this mobilization is a total disaster. I don’t want to sacrifice my life for someone absolutely crazy and I’m not ashamed to run now.

“It’s not that I’m a coward or anything, but no one is attacking my homeland. On the contrary, my homeland is an aggressor and I don’t want to be part of this aggression and obviously I don’t want to die,” he said. He said his life was falling apart, “but at least I won’t go to war”.

He is one of thousands of young men who have flocked to Russia’s borders in recent days to escape mobilization.

Earlier in the eastern Siberian city of Yakutsk, several hundred women rallied against the mobilization, chanting “No to war”, several local media and activist groups reported, posting videos. Police dispersed the rally and arrested the participants, they reported.

Valentina Matviyenko, a close Putin ally who is the speaker of parliament’s upper house, the Federation Council, warned on Sunday that the partial mobilization must be handled “without a single mistake”.

The mobilization problems reflect the rush of Russian regional leaders to meet the Kremlin’s demand for new recruits in a matter of days, regardless of quality. Matviyenko, in comments on social media, complained of “unacceptable” cases of people being mobilized who clearly should not have been.

Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said he received numerous complaints, including 75 cases of wrongfully mobilized men who were overthrown after his intervention.

Prominent Kremlin propagandist Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of RT and one of the loudest cheerleaders of the war, posted an astonishing Twitter thread documenting cases of people wrongfully mobilized, including a 63-year-old man year-old with diabetes and cerebral ischemia who was deemed fit to serve, a 35-year-old man with a spinal fracture and an artificial vertebrate, as well as students and isolated caregivers of people with disabilities. Simonyan tweeted earlier that the process was so poor, it was like Kyiv got it right.

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma, or lower house of parliament, also acknowledged the problems in comments Sunday on Telegram, calling on people to report violations to authorities.

Russia’s initial “partial mobilization” was supposed to be limited to military reserve men with military experience. A different picture has since emerged, however, with many of those called having never served before.

The sense of panic intensified when two independent Russian media reported that new travel restrictions would kick in on Wednesday, prohibiting men of military age from leaving without permission from military enlistment offices. Several Russian regions have already banned reservists from leaving.

As authorities shifted into damage control mode, two regional leaders announced that planes full of men who had been drafted in error were returning home.

Russian journalist and publisher Sergey Parkhomenko dove into a neighborhood chat group in his former Moscow suburb, which typically discusses “nothing more serious than finding a good manicure, missing a French bulldog puppy, or the need to pay to repair a lock on a courtyard door.

“And I see people arguing about mobilization, about war, and about whether men are willing to die for something they absolutely don’t need, killing people who have done them no harm. he said in a Facebook post, saying the Kremlin’s propaganda efforts appeared to have “collapsed in a day” as people suddenly felt the impact of war on their lives.

Andrei Turchak, the leader of Putin’s United Russia party, described the referendum results as a fatality. “There is just a little [of time] left, and the Kherson region will return to the big Russian family,” he said during a visit to occupied Kherson on Sunday. “As we have always said, Russia is here.”

He said after the last day of the referendums on Tuesday, “we will formalize de jure what exists de facto today and we will live as one big friendly Russian family, Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporozhye,” he said , referring to the employed population. regions including Zaporizhzhia.

War in Ukraine: what you need to know

The last: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of troops in an address to the nation on September 21, describing the move as an attempt to defend Russian sovereignty against a West that seeks to use Ukraine as a tool to ” divide and destroy Russia”. .” Follow our live updates here.

The fight: A successful Ukrainian counteroffensive has forced a major Russian retreat into the northeastern Kharkiv region in recent days, as troops fled towns and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large quantities of military equipment.

Annexation referendums: Organized referendums, which would be illegal under international law, are set to take place September 23-27 in the breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, according to Russian news agencies. Another organized referendum will be organized by the Moscow-appointed administration in Kherson from Friday.

Pictures: Washington Post photographers have been in the field since the start of the war. Here are some of their most powerful works.

How you can help: Here’s how those in the United States can help support the people of Ukraine as well as what people around the world have donated.

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