Russia begins calling up more troops
By Valerie Hopkins
A day after President Vladimir Putin announced a call-up that could see 300,000 civilians swept into military service, thousands of Russians across the country had reportedly received draft papers and were being bundled into buses Thursday for training — and soon, possibly, to the front lines in Ukraine.
In mountainous eastern Siberia, the Russian news media reported that school buses were being commandeered to move troops to training grounds, and teachers were writing “povestki,” or draft papers. Videos circulated on social media purporting to show new conscripts saying tearful goodbyes before boarding buses.
The call-ups reportedly began within hours of a recorded video announcement by Putin in which he raised the stakes in the war and escalated his confrontation with the West despite Russia’s humiliating setbacks on the battlefield. By declaring for the first time that Russian civilians could be pressed into service in Ukraine, Putin risked a public backlash but said the move was “necessary and urgent” because the West had “crossed all lines” by providing sophisticated weapons to Ukraine.
Despite the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent, protests erupted Wednesday night across Russia in response to Putin’s move, with at least 1,312 people arrested, according to the human rights watchdog OVD-Info. Many Russians sought to travel to other countries to escape being called up to fight as men across the country reported to draft offices.
Russian officials said the call-up would be limited to people with combat experience. But Yanina Nimayeva, a journalist from the Buryatia region of Siberia, wrote on Thursday that her husband — a father of five and an employee in the emergency department in the regional capital — had been called up despite never having served in the military. She said he had received a summons to an urgent meeting at 4 a.m. in which it was announced that a train had been organized to bring reservists to the city of Chita.
“My husband is 38 years old, he is not in the reserve, he did not serve,” Nimayeva said in a video addressed to the regional leader, Alexei S. Tsydenov of Putin’s United Russia party. In a sign of how the call-up is deepening discontent with Putin’s government, Nimayeva continued: “I understand that we have plans. Our republic needs to gather 4,000 soldiers. But some parameters and principles of this partial mobilization must be respected.”
Others also voiced anger at the government.
“Buryatia experienced today one of the most terrible nights in its history, ” Alexander Garmazhapova, the head of the anti-war Free Buryatia Foundation, wrote on Facebook. He said he had received “hundreds of messages asking how to leave for Ulaanbaatar,” the Mongolian capital.
It is not known how many people have received summonses. A woman from Dagestan, one of Russia’s poorest regions, who had already lost one of her sons in the war with Ukraine, told a New York Times reporter that three buses carrying newly mobilized soldiers had left her town. She sent videos showing armored personnel carriers driving along the potholed roads, although their authenticity could not be immediately verified.
In Ulan-Ude, the regional capital of Buryatia, draft papers “were distributed to houses and apartments all night,” according to a report from Arig-Us, a local independent television station. The local news media reported that new recruits had gathered at a military facility a short walk from a sports complex where funerals are held for soldiers who die in Ukraine.
Farther northeast, in the city of Neryungri, one video showed four buses lined up at a stadium. Similar videos showing new recruits gathering appeared on social media from across the country — including Vladivostok in the far east, Pskov and Belgorod on the Ukrainian border, the working-class Moscow suburb of Lyubertsy, and Chechnya and Dagestan in the Caucasus.