In Russia’s far east, fear and defiance against military call-up | Russia-Ukraine war News

Hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced partial mobilization on the Wednesday after the battlefield of Moscow failure in UkraineHoelun gets a call from her mother to pack up.

Hoelun is from Buryatia, a Siberian republic in the far east of Russia.

As a military veteran, her 29-year-old boyfriend was eligible for enlistment and, after a short refresher course, was deployed to the front lines in eastern Ukraine.

“She [mother] and my dad picked us up, and by midnight we were already at the border town of Kyakhta,” she told Al Jazeera from Mongolia.

“There are still relatively few cars, a little more than usual. We stood for two hours before they let us into the border area, then for another three hours when we got in line. We were asked to take all our belongings out of the car and they checked all the bags.

“I have a feeling that the border guards work very slowly compared to the purpose. My father told them we were visiting relatives in Mongolia, and the guards didn’t ask any questions. A huge queue has formed behind our car,” she said.

Since Wednesday, many families have had sleepless nights in Buryatia because they worry their loved one might be woken up.

Although Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu promised that only 300,000 reservists would be drafted, source in the presidential administration told independent Russian media that the real number in Putin’s decree was more than a million people.

On Saturday, Putin signed a decree, imposing harsher penalties for those fleeing a mandatory military summons of up to 10 years in prison.

“We had thousands [of draftees and their families] contact us,” said Victoria Maladaeva of Free Buryatia, an advocacy group against the war. “Right now, we’re busy evacuating everyone.”

According to activists in Buryat, the eligible men were awakened by officers at night and given half an hour to pack their belongings before being sent away to report on duty.

In the capital Ulan-Ude, students told an independent media site The village that the military police and national guard went to Buryat State University on Thursday morning to remove about a dozen of their classmates from their classrooms.

“Here, in Buryatia, they are hunting everyone down one after another – young and old, boys and girls and those who have never served,” Hoelun said wistfully. “It was a nightmare there. My heart bleeds.”

Russian soldier walks in front of Azovstal factory Damaged metallurgical complex
A Russian soldier walks in front of the damaged Metallurgical Complex’s Azovstal plant, in Mariupol [File: AP Photo]


Potential principals are, at least on paper, divided into three categories sorted by age, rank, and title.

The first category includes soldiers and sailors aged 35 and under and officers aged 65 and under up to the rank of general.

Theoretically, they should be mobilized first.

Ryu, who did not wish to give her full name, told Al Jazeera how on Wednesday night a summons came to her 45-year-old father, despite his age and lack his experience excluded him from the first list.

He has not completed his national service nor has he attended military classes at the university.

“Two plainclothes officers issued a summons and asked him to sign it,” she said. “We are currently examining the documents for AGS [alternative civil service]. “

AGS is an option available to those who can prove their personal or religious beliefs are not consistent with military service, as well as members of certain ethnic minorities who live traditional lifestyles.

But getting it is a lengthy and bureaucratic process, while applicants are pressured by military recruiters.

President of Russia on Saturday announced some exemptions for bankers, IT staff and journalists, even as the move sparked protests and forced people to flee to neighboring countries.

Long line

Elsewhere in Russia, long lines have been reported at the borders with Georgia, Finland and Kazakhstan, where men are questioned about their military eligibility before being allowed to cross.

But understandably, leaving their lives behind is not an option for everyone.

“This is a disaster,” said Ilnur, who served in the aerospace force between 2017-18. “Knowing how conscripts are trained and how you can lose skills and physical training in just one year, I can safely say that they are being marched to the place of slaughter.

“Of course I am afraid. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I really want to live. This year, my career has started to take off and I don’t want to give up my comfortable, peaceful life for the trenches near Donetsk. But I can’t do anything. I couldn’t go abroad and work there remotely, and the mortgage on my house severely cut my wings,” he added.

Other potential drawers accepted their fate.

“Yesterday four of my friends got the message – I didn’t. I guess engineers are still not needed,” Denis, a former sergeant in the engineer corps, told Al Jazeera. “Of course I am afraid. Who is not afraid of war? But if I have to, I’ll go.”

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov announced his republic would not push for mobilization as it has already filled 254% of its quota.

Meanwhile, the head of the Crimean Peninsula, Sergei Aksyonov, said his son had also enlisted in the army.

He told reporters: “There is no difference for anyone, the law is the same for everyone. “My son was called up today and [he] reported to the unit that morning… I am proud of my son”.

But not everyone in Russia’s elite is so enthusiastic.

During a YouTube live-streaming event, allies of imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny called Nikolai, the son of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, pretending to be from the enlistment office. .

Nikolai declined to report, saying he would “take this on another level”.

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