Putin’s partial mobilization for war in Ukraine fuels unrest in Russia

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“The news was worse than I expected,” said Andrei, a 30-year-old financial analyst in Moscow, who also refused to give his last name for fear of his safety. “I am amazed at the degree of absurdity and madness that we are witnessing now.”

Throughout Putin’s tenure, the Kremlin has built up a reputation for testing the limits of a settlement in which Russian citizens largely agree to stay out of politics if the state stays out of their lives. But it has always shown a sense of restraint, a reluctance to take things too far and run the risk of provoking a broad response.

As his army withdraws and Ukraine advances, analysts say Putin appears to have made the biggest political gamble of his career.

“The social contract has been violated,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “In the medium term, this is a problem for public confidence in Putin and his regime. In the short term they will not have serious protests, but rather sabotage,” he said. referring to the potential for summoned individuals to undermine the war effort.

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The statement Wednesday marks only the third time in Russian history that the government has called for military mobilization. The other two came in 1914 and 1941, during the First and Second World Wars.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke in televised remarks just after Putin.TSWT

While the Kremlin maintains that mobilization is “limited” to 300,000 reservists, the actual wording of the order does not specify or enforce any meaningful restriction on draft orders.

That has led many to rush to find out if they were about to be called up.

“The presidential decree is purposefully vague about the expected number of conscripts, their qualifications and the general draft period, meaning the scope can always be expanded,” said Andrei, the financial analyst. He added that he did not expect to be drafted into the first wave, but fully expected to be sent into battle if this war lasts long enough.

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“There are many signs that this will become an important social and political issue for Putin,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, a Russian political analyst and founder of the political consultancy R.Politik. “People search on Google for things like ‘How to leave the country’, ‘What is mobilization?’ and ‘Who can be summoned?’

However, not all Russians are alarmed by the prospect of being drafted.

After Ukraine has successfully staged two counter-offensives for weeks that have been chasing Putin’s army, pro-war activists are calling on the Kremlin to take off the gloves — and criticize the way much of Russian society is allowed to stay to sit. the sidelines.

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Alexander, a 32-year-old in Moscow, said he was not worried about being called up. “Well, it’s okay,” he said. “We’re going to fight a little bit.” Alexander, refusing to give his last name, said that he was ready to fight, that he himself has military experience – he was a T-90 tank commander.

In the early days and weeks of the conflict, there was a real shock to Russia as the country became a global pariah abandoned by Western companies.

But over time and with enough encouragement from the Kremlin, the general public could go on living and not think too much about the war. Especially in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the summer of 2022 was enjoyed like any other.

The war felt a world away. Now, quite suddenly, the war feels very close to home.

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