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Protests, flight from the country, volunteers reporting for war: Russians' reaction to Putin's military escalation

On Wednesday (21), Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the mobilization of 300 thousand reservists for the Ukrainian war and threatened to use nuclear weapons to “defend” the country’s territory – already foreseeing the annexation of regions in eastern and southern Ukraine, which will be voted on in referendums from Friday (22).

The announcement represents an escalation in the conflict started in 24 of February, and the response of the Russian people indicates that Putin may be threatened by the increase in the population’s discontent about the war – but some movements point out that a large portion continues to support the president. Check out information on the main reactions recorded so far:

Protests

Major demonstrations against the mobilization of reservists were recorded in at least 26 Russian cities on Wednesday, in which about 1,300 people were arrested, according to figures released by an independent monitoring group.

Some of the detainees were ordered to present themselves at enlistment offices as early as this Thursday (22). Other demonstrations are expected to take place over the weekend.

Mass flight

Large lines of cars have built up at the borders with neighboring countries , such as Finland and Georgia, after the announcement of the mobilization of 300 a thousand reservists.

Many Russians are also trying to leave Russia by plane. According to Reuters, seats on all Turkish Airlines flights from Moscow to Istanbul (Turkey allows Russians to enter the country without a visa) have all been reserved until next Sunday.

The great demand has made the price of tickets skyrocket. According to a survey by the aviation news website Simple Flying, on Wednesday, the cheapest tickets to Dubai were priced at more than 300 thousand rubles (almost R$

thousand), approximately five times the average monthly salary in Russia.

Flights to Turkey were costing 70 thousand rubles (R$ 6 thousand), while last week they were at just over 22 thousand rubles (R$ 1.9 thousand).

In view of this increase in demand, the Russian government has banned the sale of tickets to men aged between 18 and

years unless they present authorization to travel issued by the Ministry of Defense.

This Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that there is exaggeration in the information about Russians trying to leave the country. “There is a lot of false information. You have to be careful not to fall victim to this false information”, said Peskov.

Mobilization

According to Russian news agencies, about of 15 a thousand reservists have already volunteered to fight in Ukraine even before the arrival of their draft papers.

Nikolay Petrov, senior researcher for the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House in London, told Euronews that the Russian leader is trying to attract support from both the domestic public and allies such as China and India, who have recently expressed concern about the direction of the war.

“Putin’s speech it was an attempt to turn the imperialist war into a patriotic war,” Petrov said.

Reservists will be called who have served in the Russian armed forces and have combat experience or specialized military skills. However, military analysts believe that, with the training that will be required, this contingent should take months to reach Ukraine.

In addition to the mobilization of 300 thousand reservists, Russia has extended the contracts of professional soldiers known as “kontraktniki.”

Earlier this week, the Russian parliament passed a bill that toughened punishments for crimes such as desertion (penalty of ten years in prison), damage to military property and insubordination and made voluntary surrender a crime punishable by ten to 15 years in prison. Conscientious objectors can receive sentences of up to three years’ imprisonment.

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