Russian opposition voices have called for protests in the wake of President Vladimir Putin’s Wednesday speech declaring a partial wartime mobilization.
Russia’s Vesna (Spring) opposition movement has urged protests against Putin’s mobilization order at 7pm in the central squares of all major Russian towns. “Thousands of Russian men - our fathers, brothers and husbands - will be thrown into the meat grinder of war. What will they die for? What will mothers and children shed tears for?” the group wrote in a statement on Telegram. “Protests are only the beginning. We are confident that the mobilization decision could be the end for this government… everything is in our hands.”
"It is clear that the criminal war is getting worse, deepening, and Putin is trying to involve as many people as possible in this," said jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a video statement, according to Reuters. “He wants to smear hundreds of thousands of people in this blood.” There have been reports of small numbers of protesters being dispersed or detained today in the cities of Tomsk, Novosibirsk, and Krasnoyarsk, though it is unclear how widespread these actions currently are.
Polling conducted over the past half year has shown that Russians continue to overwhelmingly support Putin and the Russian military effort in Ukraine. There are few indications that Putin’s Wednesday speech has shifted these underlying dynamics. Moscow cracked down on wartime dissent in the months following the Russian invasion, criminalizing the dissemination of “false information” about the Russian military and toughening its controversial “Foreign Agent” law. Thousands were detained during previous anti-war protests in Russia, according to watchdog OVD-Info.
Putin ordered the partial mobilization of Russia’s military Wednesday on the heels of Russian setbacks in the Russo-Ukrainian War. “I reiterate, we are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be subject to conscription, and above all, those who served in the armed forces have a certain military specialty and relevant experience,” he said. Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu said that 300,000 qualified reservists will be called up, adding that students and those already serving as conscripts will not be deployed to Ukraine. Shoigu said that just under 6,000 Russian troops have been killed since the start of the conflict, a figure that falls well below Western and Ukrainian estimates.
The Kremlin has stopped short of full-scale mobilization and the complete transition of the economy to a war footing, which experts say would be exceedingly unpopular in Russia’s major population centers.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.