Russia begins mobilising Ukrainians to fight against their own country

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In the occupied city of Kherson, some Ukrainian men believe that if they break their own arms, maybe the Russians will not force them into military service.

Others are hiding in basements. Some are trying to run even though they are forbidden from leaving the city, residents said, and virtually everyone is afraid.

“People are panicking,” said Katerina, 30. “First they were searching our houses, and now the Russians will conscript our men to their army.

“This is all unlawful but very real for us.”

As the Kremlin’s conscription drive faced protests across Russia for a fifth day, new signs of resistance and fear emerged Sunday in the territories it occupies in Ukraine as well.

The drive to compel Ukrainians to battle other Ukrainians is part of a broader, if risky, effort by Moscow to mobilise hundreds of thousands of new fighters as its forces suffer huge casualties and struggle to hold off Ukrainian advances in the east and south.

It comes at the same time as a Russian-orchestrated vote that is setting the stage for the Kremlin to cleave Ukraine through an annexation that has been broadly condemned around the world.

The result of the pseudo referendum underway is expected to be announced Tuesday.

The anticipated outcome: That a majority of people in four Ukrainian regions, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, “voted” to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia is then widely expected to declare in coming days those areas belong to Russia and therefore protected by the might of its full arsenal, including the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, Russian military officials continued to cast a dragnet across the vast expanse of their own nation, which stretches halfway around the Northern Hemisphere, for hundreds of thousands of men to conscript into the military, many likely to soon be dispatched to Ukraine.

Despite draconian laws against dissent and the arrest of thousands of Russians protesting the “partial mobilisation” in recent days, scattered demonstrations continued Sunday, with reports of widespread unrest in Dagestan, a republic in the Caucasus region of southern Russia.

Police fired into the air to clear one demonstration, according to videos circulating on social media, and Russian social media channels reported that some villages were refusing to comply with mobilization orders.

Amid rumors that Putin may close the nation’s borders completely, an exodus from the country continued, with a line of 2,500 cars reported at the Russia-Georgia border Sunday, according to the Federal Customs Service.

Putin had resisted ordering a mobilization for months, but his decision underscored the Kremlin’s struggles on the battlefield, where more than 80,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or injured in just over seven months, American officials estimate.

It was the largest escalation of the war since Moscow began its full-scale invasion in February, and it underlined Putin’s commitment to a prolonged struggle to bend Ukraine to his will.

In an address Sunday, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine urged Russians to avoid mobilization by any means, including by surrendering themselves to Ukrainian captivity.

“We see that people, in particular, in Dagestan, began to fight for their lives,” he said. “We see that they are beginning to understand that this is a question of their lives. Why should their husbands, brothers, sons die in this war? In a war that one man wants.”

In the two southern regions partly under the control of Russian forces, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, all men ages 18 to 35 have been forbidden to leave, and many have been ordered to report for military duty, according to witnesses and Ukrainian officials.




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