Russian President Vladimir Putin’s surprise draft to reinvigorate his invasion of Ukraine came as growing resistance across Russia on Friday prompted villagers, activists, and even some elected officials to ask that minorities be better than large cities. Why the recruitment drive is appearing difficult in clusters and rural areas?
Some of the greatest sufferings is a sparsely populated expanse stretching across the Arctic Circle, in the Caucasus Mountains, and the northeastern region of Yakutia, hundreds or thousands of miles from the front line. Community leaders described remote villages where most of the working-age male population had received recruitment notices in recent days, leaving families that were on land without men nearby to work before the long winter.
“We have reindeer herders, hunters, fishermen – we have very few of them anyway,” said Vyacheslav Shadrin, chairman of the council of elders for a small indigenous group known as the Yukagirs, in a phone interview.
Putin announced the call-up on Wednesday, describing it as a “partial mobilization” needed to counter Ukraine and its Western supporters, who he said were seeking Russia’s destruction. It was a move he was too late to make, even as supporters of the war struggled for a draft to allow Russia to intensify its attack.
Focusing on men with military experience and special skills, defense officials said Russia would mobilize about 300,000 civilians, although some Russian media who now operate outside the country reported the number could be much higher.
But by Friday, even some of the sharpest commentators urging the draft were criticizing the broad and unequivocal way that it was rolling out. Rybar, a popular pro-war blog on Telegram, described receiving “a large number of stories” of people with health problems or draft notices without war experience, even though some volunteers were being turned away.
Rather than helping Russia’s war effort, Hawks warned, chaotic recruiting could harm it. And some said that military officers obeying orders cared more about formally carrying out orders than winning wars.
“If we are doing a mobilization, this should be the foundation for strengthening the army,” Andrei Medvedev, a Moscow parliamentarian and state television host, wrote on Telegram. “And not cause for turmoil.”
In Yakutia, a union representing the region’s main ethnic group, the Sakha, warned that the draft could have dire consequences there. The group circulated a letter to Putin saying that the mobilization could lead to “the denial of the male component of Yakutia’s already sparsely populated northern districts”.
And even a member of the Russian parliament, which represents the region, Sardana Avksentieva, wrote on social media on Thursday that she had heard of a 300-person village that called 47 men.
“What is the logic of these numbers?” He asked, that people in rural areas are being drafted at a higher rate than in cities. “What proportionality are we talking about?”