Is Putin’s ‘Partial Mobilization’ a Feint? Something Big Is Happening in Russia

There is no doubt that the Ukrainian military has achieved some spectacular successes in recent weeks. But predictions of a Ukrainian victory over Russia in this conflict are premature and perhaps even a bit naïve.

Having watched Putin at work over the past few decades, it’s pretty clear that he has no intention of accepting defeat unless he is overthrown by his own people, which is possible.

On Wednesday, Putin announced an upcoming “partial mobilization” of military reservists. He insisted that “only citizens who are currently in reserve will be subject to conscription, and most importantly, those who have served in the armed forces will have a specific military specialty and relevant experience,” CNBC reported.

In a televised speech that followed, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu put the number of conscripts at 300,000, according to Reuters. The actual figure in Putin’s mobilization order remains confidential. At the same time, Shoigu made the absurd claim that only 5,937 Russian soldiers had been killed since hostilities broke out in February.

But the frenzied level of activity within the country over the past 48 hours suggests a much larger mobilization may be underway right now. The figure of 300,000 reported by the Russian media may only be part of what Putin is sending to the front lines. According to reports, the real number could be as high as one million.


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300,000 fresh troops could be a boon for Russia and a relief for its beleaguered soldiers, to say the least. A million additional troops would be a game changer.

The Guardian’s Andrew Roth, reporting from Moscow, described the mood in the Russian capital as “emotional” as mothers and wives bid a tearful goodbye to sons and husbands. He shared reports of conscripts being forced to pack their bags and show up at the military service center within the hour.

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Roth believes there are signs that a larger draft is in the works and that “minority ethnic groups could be disproportionately affected”.

He cited an article that appeared in Novaya Gazeta Europe, an independent Russian newspaper, claiming that “a source in the presidential administration said Russia is aiming to conscript more than 1 million people into the army.”

According to Roth, “Videos and anecdotal evidence from across Russia have shown that even small towns have big drafts. … Many are in Russia’s ethnic minority republics, fueling the feeling that the country is disproportionately relying on ethnic minorities to provide its main force in Ukraine. These regions also suffer a disproportionate number of deaths and casualties from the war.”

According to the Guardian, although Putin said only current reservists would be called up for the service, there are numerous reports of citizens who have never served in the military and received a summons.

In Buryatia, in eastern Siberia, elderly men, including a 52-year-old man, were forced into service. The article described a 38-year-old father of five who had never been called up for military service.


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A woman living in a village of 450 people in Buryatia told Roth that more than 20 draft papers had been delivered.

Alexandra Garmazhapova, president of the activist group Free Buryatia Foundation, noted, “It’s not partial mobilization, it’s 100 percent mobilization.” Reports on ‘Povestka’ or paper drafts’ had been served.

Roth cited university students in classrooms, workers at two major mining companies, and men gathered at a football stadium all receiving draft notices.

A draft notice was handed to a young reporter from Sota Vision newspaper, Artem Krieger, who was in Moscow to cover the protests, the report said. From the back of a police van, Krieger told TV Rain, “All the men, really all, got a draft notice.”

Putin’s massive ego will not allow him to lose this war. His legacy is at stake. He obviously sees this escalation as his best option under the circumstances.

While Roth misjudged the magnitude of this mobilization, the addition of 300,000 additional troops is by any measure a major escalation of the war.

But is forced service really a good strategy? Al Jazeera reported that shortly after Putin’s call to arms on Wednesday, there was a spike in search engine activity for How to Leave Russia.

Putin recruits the old and the young, the inexperienced and those who would rather put needles in their eyes than fight a war they don’t believe in. Many Russians have opposed this misguided “military special operation” from the start and can simply refuse to fight.

Thousands of Russians are trying to flee the country to escape service. A 29-year-old Russian reserve sergeant spoke to The Guardian from the airport in Orenburg. He said: “I just won’t let Putin make me a murderer in a war I don’t want to be a part of. … I will drive across the border tonight. I have no idea when I’ll set foot in Russia again.”

Time will tell if Putin’s latest strategy is the silver bullet.

If not, he has one last arrow in his quiver.

How will NATO react? Is Putin’s ‘Partial Mobilization’ a Feint? Something Big Is Happening in Russia

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