September 27, 2022

Westside People

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Leaving Russia, before the door slams

Marco* has been preparing for months to leave Russia and live in Canada. It was almost time for departure. His flight ticket is said to be September 25. But as of Wednesday, he fears it’s too late.

Posted at 5:00 am.

“I am asking all my friends to pray for me while I am at passport control,” he wrote to me on a secure communication platform. Russia, the war, the future of her children.

I dare not give you many details about Marco, to whom I have given a fictitious first name, for fear of harming his journey, but I have known the man and his peace for a very long time. He never wrote to me in panic.

The panic appears to be shared by a large part of the Russian population after Vladimir Putin’s televised announcement on Wednesday morning. The Kremlin boss, who has said his country is not at war since last February, announced a “partial demobilization” of Russian armed forces for his “special military operation” in Ukraine. A mobilization that could affect 300,000 people.

It didn’t take long to trigger the rescue. The broadcast of the president’s speech had not ended when men hit the Internet to find a way out: a plane ticket to Turkey, Armenia or Georgia, countries where they could visit without applying for a visa. Tickets flew at high prices. Flights for next week are full.

While some started at their keyboards, others took to the streets. Despite strict rules surrounding criticism of the military and Russia’s intentions in Ukraine. By Wednesday evening, at least 1,300 people had been arrested for participating in anti-mobilization protests.

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While Vladimir Putin and his defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, may say the mobilization is only for those with combat experience or specialties that would be useful in Ukraine, the wording of the decree accompanying his announcement is vague and many Russians fear a much larger mobilization. A large-scale imperative.

Especially since the minister himself admits that he can recruit from a pool of already 25 million people.

Who are these 25 million Russians? All men under 50 (or under 60) have done their compulsory one-year military service, so are not necessarily eager soldiers heading off to whistle on the front lines.

And the door can be quickly closed on the forced. The Russian government has indicated that reservists who receive a summons from the military do not have the right to leave or leave the country. Under sentence of imprisonment.

There was nothing to calm the immediate escapist desires of thousands of men of fighting age.

“More broadly, the call for partial demobilization demonstrates that the face of war in Russia is changing. The Kremlin wants a quick, decisive victory, but Russia today cannot talk about a short-term victory,” says Guillaume Sauvé, a Russia expert and visiting researcher at the Center for International Studies and Research at the University of Montreal. It is to confirm that the country is entering a long-term conflict.

In this long-running conflict, Moscow doesn’t have the big end of the stick these days. Over the past two weeks, Ukrainian forces have succeeded in regaining control of towns and villages in Kharkiv and Kherson regions. Russia’s allies, including the mighty China, have proposed war. Domestically, voices are rising among doves to criticize Russia’s role in the current war.

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By announcing a partial demobilization, Vladimir Putin has awakened a segment of the population that spent a normal summer, ignoring the ongoing conflict in the neighboring country. War now threatens to knock directly on their doorstep.

To make sure he is ringing bells for all his people, the autocratic leader has renewed his threat to use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territorial integrity, which in his twisted version of history would now be threatened by the West. .

Marko, who has seen tons of Russians around swallowing Kremlin propaganda for months, believes many of them are opening their eyes and weeding out the “poison of misinformation.” However, he didn’t want to stay there to see the results of this slow detoxification.

Although he is not a reservist, he fears that the border will soon become a place of excessive control. So he crosses his fingers, hoping to get out unmolested. “Don’t worry about anything. Good winds are on our side. Even if the authorities block my path, I will never go to war. All will end well. I am sure,” he wrote to me.

I want to share the Olympic peace he has regained.

* Fictitious first name