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  • Sophia Sorcigli

Escaping Putin: Russian Protests and Resistance to Conscription Amid Increased Militarization

Nearly 10,000 Russian men every day are entering Georgia, a neighboring country to Russia. Some have traveled on foot and some have left families behind, all to escape Putin’s coming conscription of Russian soldiers. Ukrainians have made clear that the majority of civilians are against the war between Russia and Ukraine, however, the Russian stance has been distorted through the media, and has been difficult to understand.

As of September 26, Russian protests have taken the streets as the resistance to Putin’s partial conscription has taken root in Russia. The recent protests in Russia have demonstrated a surge in Russian resistance due to the growing casualties of war and the continued isolation of Russia from the global community.

As the Russo-Ukrainian war takes on headlines across the globe, Russian media has made it difficult to retain information on casualties and the impact of the war on Russian forces. Russian sources such as “Russian Times” have spread articles with false information and propaganda supporting the Russian annexations in Ukraine, while undermining the impact the war has had on Russian forces. Furthermore, Europe has seen the largest refugee crisis since WW2, with over 13 million Ukrainians fleeing the country as Russian forces continue to mobilize into Ukraine. Ukrainian casualties are estimated at 9,000 military personnel deaths and have been stated to have killed or injured 45,200 Russian soldiers. Additionally, Ukrainians have been regaining land in the South and East of Ukraine, placing Putin on higher alert as Ukrainians pave their way back. Due to such high along with immense territorial losses, Putin is in hopes to mobilize more forces. The mobilization would lead to Russian civilians being drafted into the Russo-Ukrainian war. Putin’s recent announcement on partial conscription has led to an uproar across Russia, calling for more soldiers as some Russians lean away from a continuation of this war.

Putin has been looking to send nearly 300,000 more civilians off to Ukraine in an effort to annex more Ukrainian land. Thousands of Russian civilians have made efforts to flee the country, many making their way to neighboring states where few are welcome. Georgia, Mongolia, and Latvia are a few countries seeing a surge in Russian civilians entering their land. Others that can not escape Putin's reign and are against more mobilization and the continuing of this war have gone out to protest in the streets of Russia. It is stated that “more than 2,000” Russian civilians have been arrested while protesting Putin’s plan for further mobilization. The reaction seen in Russian society is one that has not been seen in recent history. Russians across the country have been chanting “send Putin to the trenches” along with a strong resistance to the war.

Russian Citizens protest the war. Source: Financial Times

Recent highlights in the news have not shed light on Russian resistance, as most US sources focus on Ukrainian resistance and morale, though Russian resistance is taking a strong lead. Ukrainian forces and their government under President Volodymyr Zelensky have sent out a message to Russian forces to “defy Putin’s call for conscription.” Many Russians are reacting from fear of being tired and taking a role in a war “of aggression”. Furthermore, it is becoming more and more evident that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine by Russian forces. The United Nations released data surrounding this stating that, brutal executions along with sexual assault against children were some of the war crimes committed by Russian forces. As this information strikes world media, Russians are against the idea of Putin continuing mobilization on such a large scale. However, though the globe is seeing Russian protestors take on Putin’s view, recent studies show that Russians still feel suppressed in searching their opinions.

A recent survey released states that people who are most likely to disagree with the Kremlin’s actions are the young Russian population. The question then asked by many foreign civilians in support of Ukraine, is why is there such a large youth population that does not support Kremlin rule but are not in the streets protesting as much as they could be. Open Democracy states that Soviet-era repression is to blame for the ideological absence of protests. Protests in Russia are put in fear of sharing open ideas, as many will face “up to 15 years in prison…for even using the word ‘war’” when talking about the conflict.

The Soviet Union largely suppressed protests, which is what the world is seeing now in modern-day Russia. Additionally, with the blocking of media sources and the hindrance of private journalism such as Instagram and opposition newspapers, it has become increasingly difficult for Russians to seek factual media sources. This inherently results in misinformation and the complete isolation of Russian civilians from global society.

The Russo-Ukrainian conflict is one that will leave a lasting impact in the years to come and the end is not in sight just yet. The number of migrants and refugees will continue to rise as Ukrainians are not the only ones fleeing anymore. Russian men are making every attempt to avoid being drafted into the war. From fleeing to others protesting, Russians are in hope of avoiding further casualties and continuing this war.

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