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“This is a fratricidal war”: protests continue in Russia, as mandatory conscription begins SBS News

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Moscow began mandatory conscription on Thursday to try to bolster the military effort in Ukraine, and authorities said thousands of volunteers had signed up even as Russian men fled the country to avoid being forced to fight.
Amateur footage released on social media after President Vladimir Putin ordered the mobilization of reservists on Wednesday purportedly shows hundreds of Russian citizens across the country responding to military drafts.

The call comes as Moscow-controlled regions of Ukraine are set to vote in the coming days on whether to become part of Russia in referendums that Kyiv and its allies have called an illegal land grab.

Moscow made the moves after Ukrainian forces seized most of the northeastern Kharkiv region, seen as a possible turning point in the seven-month-old war that has stalled.
The Russian military said Thursday that at least 10,000 men had volunteered to fight in the 24 hours since the order, but men also rushed to leave Russia before being forced to join up.
“I don’t want to go to war,” a man named Dmitriy, who flew to Armenia with one small bag, told AFP.

“I don’t want to die in this senseless war. This is a fratricidal war.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday called on Russians to resist the partial mobilization announced by President Vladimir Putin, which has sparked protests and new exodus from the country.
“55,000 Russian soldiers died during these six months of war…” Mr. Zelensky said in his daily address.
“Do you want more? No? Then protest. Fight back. Run away. Or surrender” to the Ukrainian army.
“You are already accomplices in all these crimes, murders and torture of Ukrainians. Because you were silent. Because you are silent,” Zelensky added.

“And now it’s time for you to choose: for men in Russia, it’s a choice – to die or live, to become crippled or to keep healthy.

President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky. Source: AAP / Ukrinfarm/ABACA/PA

“For women in Russia, the choice is to lose their husbands, sons, and grandchildren forever, or try to protect them from death, from war, from one person (Putin),” he continued.

More than 1,300 people were arrested at demonstrations across Russia on Wednesday after a partial mobilization was announced.
There were also reports of a mass exodus following the announcement. Flights from Russia to neighboring countries, where Russians are allowed visa-free entry, were almost fully booked, and prices skyrocketed.

On Thursday, the Kremlin dismissed as “false” reports that Russians eligible for mobilization were rushing to leave.

annexation “vote”

Men of military age made up the majority of those who arrived on the last flight from Moscow to the Armenian airport, and many did not want to speak.
Yerevan has become the main destination for Russians fleeing since the war began on February 24, sparking fierce international opposition seeking to isolate Russia.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Thursday demanded that Putin be held accountable for confronting Russia at a Security Council session during which the United Nations cataloged abuses in Ukraine.

“We cannot – we will not – let President Putin get away with it,” Mr Blinken told the Security Council in a special session as the leaders met at the United Nations.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whom Mr. Blinken refused to meet in person after the February invasion, hit back at the Western accusations.

“Today there is an attempt to impose a completely different narrative on us about Russian aggression as the source of this tragedy,” Lavrov told the Security Council.

Russians reacted to President Putin's mobilization for war against Ukraine

Russian police detained a participant of an unauthorized demonstration on September 21. Source: Getty / (Photo by Contributor/Getty Images)

Mr. Lavrov was in the boardroom only to address a meeting of the 15-member body, which included US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Mr. Lavrov heard no one else.

“I noticed today that Russian diplomats are fleeing just as well as Russian troops,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said at a meeting of the Security Council for Responsibility in Ukraine.

The council, meeting in Ukraine for at least the 20th time this year, has been unable to take significant action because Russia is a permanent member with veto power along with the United States, France, Britain and China.

Lavrov accused Kyiv of threatening Russia’s security and “brazenly trampling” the rights of Russians and Russian-speakers in Ukraine, adding that all this “simply confirms the inevitability of the decision to conduct a military special operation.”
Ukrainian Mr. Kuleba said: “The number of lies coming from Russian diplomats is extraordinary.”

Mr. Lavrov said that the countries that supply weapons to Ukraine and train its soldiers are parties to the conflict, adding that “the deliberate fomenting of this conflict by the collective West has gone unpunished.”

UN SUMMIT-UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT-RIGHTS-STUDY

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is leaving after speaking at the UN Security Council meeting about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Source: Getty / (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)

The standoff on the diplomatic stage escalated as Kremlin-appointed officials in Ukrainian regions controlled by Moscow’s forces vowed Thursday to go ahead with annexation elections this week.

Ukraine’s four Russian-occupied regions — Donetsk and Luhansk in the east and Kherson and Zaporozhye in the south — have announced they will vote over five days starting Friday.

Vladimir Saldo, appointed in Moscow as the head of the Kherson region, which fell under the Russian invasion early on, said that the referendum in his region will be held, despite the criticism.

“The date is set. We have the green light. Voting starts tomorrow, and nothing can stop it,” he told Russian state media.
“People have been waiting and demanding that this vote be held as soon as possible,” he added.
Western leaders meeting this week in New York unanimously condemned the ballots.

Speaking at the UN, US President Joe Biden accused Putin of a “shameless” violation of the UN Charter with a war aimed at “destroying Ukraine’s right to exist as a state.”

“Anyone would like to leave”

The integration of the war-torn regions into Russia would mean a serious escalation of the conflict, as Moscow could try to say that it is defending its territory from Ukrainian troops.
After his proxies in Ukraine announced the results of the vote, President Putin announced that Russia would call up some 300,000 reservists to bolster the military effort and warned that Moscow would use “all means” to defend its territory.

Former Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev said in a statement on social media that the assets included “strategic nuclear weapons.” He predicted that the electoral regions “will be integrated into Russia.”

For most observers, the results of the simultaneous votes were already a foregone conclusion and were rushed because Ukrainian forces were making sweeping gains in their counteroffensive to retake the east.
Referendums resemble similar votes in 2014, during which the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine was annexed by Russia. Western countries said the vote was rigged and responded by imposing sanctions on Moscow.

Election officials in the Donetsk region, which has been partially controlled by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014, said that in the first few days, voting would take place by door-to-door. But at the polling stations it will be possible only on the last day, on Tuesday.

As a result of rocket fire in Donetsk, 6 civilians were killed

A woman reacts to a rocket attack that killed 6 civilians at a market in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on September 22, 2022, as the Russian-Ukrainian war continues. Source: Getty / (Photo by Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Mr. Putin’s move this week to call up reservists in Ukraine has sparked protests across Russia and mass arrests.

Flights from Russia to neighboring countries, mainly to former Soviet republics that allow Russians visa-free entry, are almost fully booked and prices have soared, indicating an exodus of Russians who want to avoid war.
Looking lost and exhausted in the arrival hall of the airport in the Armenian capital, Sergei, 44, said he fled Russia to avoid conscription.

“The situation in Russia would force anyone to leave,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

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