New footage has exposed a major problem with Vladimir Putin’s military mobilisation plan, one which could prove to be the downfall in his bid for control across Ukraine.
The Russian leader has declared a partial military mobilisation, signing a decree that this week that will see all reserve soldiers conscripted.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday that Russia would mobilise up to 300,000 reservists.
“Three hundred thousand reservists will be called up,” Shoigu said on state television, noting that this is only a fraction of Russia’s troops available to be called up.
However, the news has not sat well with everyone, with a video of a group of men appearing to resist the call to join the fighting emerging online.
The clip was reportedly filmed in Dagestan, which is a republic of Russia, and shows an argument breaking out between a group of men and a woman outside a military recruitment office.
According to multiple translations of the confrontation, the woman was arguing in favour of the draft, noting her son had been fighting in Ukraine since February.
One man then claimed she shouldn’t have sent her son to fight, to which she responded: “I should have, this is my house. If necessary, then I will go.”
“Go yourself, I won’t go,” the man responded.
“You’re fighting for your children’s future,” the woman shouted.
“We don’t have a present, what kind of future are you talking about?” one of the men replied.
Thousands of men flee Russia
There have been reports of traffic building up at Russia’s border crossings as thousands attempt to flee the country following the mobilisation announcement.
Many have been flying to Armenia, with military-aged men making up the majority of those arriving off flights from Moscow yesterday, according to AFP. Many were reluctant to speak.
The country’s capital, Yerevan, has become a major destination for Russians fleeing since war began on February 24.
Since then, Armenia says at least 40,000 Russians have arrived in the small Caucasus country, once a part of the Soviet Union.
Nearly 50,000 Russians have fled to neighbouring Georgia, national statistics from June showed.
“I don’t want to go to the war,” a man named Dmitri told AFP, having left behind his wife and children in Russia.
“I don’t want to die in this senseless war. This is a fratricidal war.”
“The situation in Russia would make anyone want to leave,” said another new arrival, 44-year-old Sergei, who arrived with his teenage son.
Looking lost and exhausted in an Armenian airport, he confirmed that they had fled “because of the mobilisation”, but refused to give his full name.
The Kremlin on Thursday dismissed as “fake” reports that Russians eligible for mobilisation were rushing for the exit.
“A great deal of false information has emerged about this,” said spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
But flights out of Russia were nearly fully booked for the week ahead to cities in the nearby former Soviet countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Putin’s highly unusual move amid chaos
Citizens fleeing the country isn’t the only problem the Russian President is facing, with military officials also arguing over the best battlefield tactics.
The dysfunction has forced Putin to make a highly unusual move by giving orders directly to generals in the field, two sources familiar with US and western intelligence told CNN.
The sources claim this strange tactic hints at a wider issues within the Russian military and its command structure, with one source claiming intelligence intercepts have captured Russian officers arguing among themselves and complaining about commands.
National Security Council co-ordinator for strategic communications John Kirby told CNN that Putin was “struggling” amid “poor unit cohesion, desertions in the ranks, soldiers not wanting to fight”.
“He has terrible morale, unit cohesion on the battlefield, command and control has still not been solved. He’s got desertion problems and he’s forcing the wounded back into the fight. So clearly, manpower is a problem for him,” he said.
“He feels like he’s on his back foot, particularly in that northeast area of the Donbass.”
When announcing his mobilisation plans this week, Putin also warned he would use “all means available to us” to achieve his goals in Ukraine.
He said he was “not bluffing” when it comes to Russia’s nuclear weapons arsenal to respond to external “aggression”.
“When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff,” he said.
“Those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can also turn in their direction.”
Several analysts, including UK Foreign Office Minister Gillian Keegan, said Putin’s latest speech is “obviously an escalation” as his administration clamours to solidify its power.
A massive setback in northeastern Ukraine earlier this month left the West in the dark about the Russian military’s next move. Now, it appears Putin is pushing to take a chunk of Ukraine’s east via a series of “referendums”.
The Kremlin has remained ambiguous about when those referendums for the four Ukrainian regions, which are almost entirely held by Russia, would take place.
Former Russian president Dmitri A. Medvedev, who is also the vice chairman of Putin’s Security Council, said the referendums have “huge significance” in the months to come.
“Encroaching on the territory of Russia is a crime, the commission of which allows you to use all the forces of self-defence,” Medvedev said.
– with AFP