Uncertainty is spreading among the Russian population after this Wednesday, in a televised message, Putin announced a decree of “partial mobilization” of the population to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country against the Ukrainian counteroffensive. A mobilization that will affect some 300,000 reservists with prior military experience and will not affect students.
Until now the Russian population has been forced to ignore the war in Ukraine. “We are in shock and we don’t know what will happen”Explain Esvetlana. She is 22 years old and speaks perfect Spanish. She lives in the center of Moscow. He works in an advertising company, and upon arriving at the office he did not dare to talk to his colleagues about Putin’s latest decision. “My boyfriend is a student, but nobody guarantees that they won’t call him in the future,” he says with a broken voice. He insists, throughout the call with RTVE.es, that he does not know or understand what is happening. “Maybe because I’m very young I don’t understand everything, but we do not know what to do“, adds desperate.
“My boyfriend is a student, but no one guarantees that they will not call him in the future“
For his part, the leader of the Kremlin has assured that it is a “decision to defend Russia”. “The West wants to destroy the country”, he has said in a televised speech, to justify his decision. The call for mobilization comes a day after the Parliaments of the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, and the territories partially controlled by the Russian forces in Kherson and Zaporizhia have called, between Friday and Tuesday, two referendums of accession with Russia. Esvetlana fears that the integration of these territories, still in dispute with Ukraine, represents a step to officially announce the war and hence a national mobilization.
The important thing in all this is that the gesture supposes “an acknowledgment of the failure of the special operationthe evidence that all the plans have collapsed and the Kremlin has not achieved its initial objective,” he says. Inaki Ortega, correspondent of the EFE Agency in Moscow. In addition, Putin’s speech coincides with the UN General Assembly in New York where all attention is focused on this conflict. “Putin does not gratuitously announce this partial mobilization, he does it so that it has the repercussion that he wants and in a place where they are going to talk mainly about its invasion”, analyzes Jose Carlos Gallardo, former correspondent in Russia for RTVE.
“The president says that it is about defending our territorial integrity throughout thousand kilometers of border and that there are not enough people to protect the territory”, explains a perplexed Esvetlana. She feels that in big cities like Moscow or Saint Petersburg people are more informed, but in other localities “there are many, many people who support Putin “. In recent years, the Kremlin has been paving the way, as organizations such as Reporters Without Borders have denounced, to repress freedom of expression and censor independent media and critical voices. In rural areas, Putin’s speech about having to “denazify Ukraine”. In Moscow, he says, his whole circle does not agree with the war: “Everyone knows what is happening, but we are afraid, you cannot imagine how afraid we are here.”
“Russian citizens they are hostages of their own history and of the leaders who have led their country. I don’t think there will be a majority mobilization at that time. The country is isolated and independent media outlets no longer exist,” argues Gallardo. For now, the Vesná peace movement (Spring) has called a demonstration, but the context of oppression makes it difficult for it to become a massive protest. “If there is a demonstration of 8,000 people and we are a population of more than 140 million peopleit won’t do any good”, says Esvetlana, especially if the fate of those who demonstrate is jail.
There are 300,000 reservists who have been called up immediately. “It is necessary to prepare them, train them and instruct them and it will not be sudden,” argues Ortega. He estimates that it is a medium and long-term plan. The Defense Minister has confirmed that Russia can mobilize 25 million men with military experience, the 300,000 are only 1%. In addition, he has recognized that they have died less than 6,000 (5,937) soldiers in Ukraine, with the intention that there is no panic among those called to enlist. The activities related to the mobilization have started this Wednesday. The profiles vary technicians from state companies, technicians in military matters and also administrative.
The reservists: a medium and long-term plan
“Experts here in Russia believe that the level of military training of these reservists in many cases was low. when it comes to combat. They will be specialists in their areas, but they present Doubts about his fighting ability. It will be necessary to see if they will be in the first line of assault, in the vanguard or in the rear, “says the correspondent in Moscow. “They are not the reservists of the time of the Soviet Union,” he emphasizes.
The next steps after this announcement are not known. Expert voices estimate that it will take the Kremlin to mobilize, equip and organize these reservists and they anticipate that until spring they would not be able to get fully involved in the battlefronts. Other voices, however, consider that they could be sent to be in the rear in the territories occupied by Russia. In addition, it is important to highlight the enormous losses that Moscow’s armed forces have suffered following the advance of the kyiv counter-offensive. The Ukrainian military have come to destroy ammunition depots, military bases and command posts. To all this, we must add the low morale of the soldiers at the gates of winter.
“What is clear is that Putin has never backed down. All his moves, all his policies, have been more successful or no he will never ever back down“says Gallardo, it would be a way of showing the weakness of the russian pride. The withdrawal from Kharkov has been a jug of cold water that has brought to light the divisions and criticism within the leadership itself and this has pushed Putin to go one step further. “We have seen very angry people in Russia, they accused the generals of serious errors, some even asked for executions. A defeatist environment had been created and he had to do something,” agrees Ortega.
The despair of the youngest
Gallardo recalls that military service in the post-Soviet republic is compulsory. Many young people have used all kinds of excuses not to do it: “They don’t see the pointsome get away with excuses from certain jobs or studies and others do it as soon as possible to continue with their lives”. The worst thing about this scenario, explains the former correspondent, is that the numbers of deaths from accidents in the army “are devastating” .
“Many of these young people will seek to leave the country“, assures Andrés, a 25-year-old Russian, who arrived in Spain on March 29. He misses his family a lot, but “on a day like today with what our president has announced, I am happy to be here” He shows concern for his friends who are worried and nervous. “This mobilization can bring the war to our homes”, complaint. “Each announcement opens the way to new unknowns,” she confesses. “I know what they have announced today, but I don’t know what they are going to decide tomorrow,” she ditches.
In the last few hours, outbound flights from Russia have been running out. According to Aviasales, there are no longer tickets for direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul or Yerevan, both destinations that allow the entry of russians without visa.
“I know my voice is nothing” Esvetlana complaint. “In the last elections I was 17 and I couldn’t vote, now I’m 22 years old and no one has asked me if I’m for or against what our leaders are doing,” the young woman denounces. She regrets that in this uncertain scenario they cannot leave the country, “me I personally haven’t done anything wrong.” Remember that Western sanctions are affecting the local population. “We are not to blame for what the government is doing.” The international community does not help us, society does not help Russian society, also a victim of this war.