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Putin’s appeal fuels Russian anger, protests and violence

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Long lines of cars on roads winding their way to Russia’s border crossings with Georgia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia, and similar queues at airports.
Angry demonstrations – not just in Moscow and St. Petersburg – but in the remote far northern province of Yakutia and the southern region of Dagestan, with women chasing a policeman and shouting “No to war! “
A gunman who opened fire at an enlistment office in a Siberian town and seriously injured the military commander, saying: ‘We’re all going home now.
Five days after President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization to call up hundreds of thousands of reservists to fight in Ukraine, the move sparked outraged protests, a chilling exodus and acts of violence across the vast country.
“Panic. Everyone I know is panicked,” David, a Russian who gave only his first name for fear of reprisals, said in an interview with The Associated Press at a border crossing with Georgia. “We run from the regime that kills people.”

While the Kremlin had wanted to promote its orchestrated referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine as a joyous event, with those regions expected to join Russia in a move similar to the annexation of Crimea in 2014, it instead faces the instability and chaos at home.
State-led rallies have been held in Moscow and other cities to celebrate referendums even before the end of several polling days that have been denounced as predetermined, bogus and illegitimate by Kyiv and the West.
In his Wednesday speech announcing the mobilization, Putin said the Kremlin would “support” the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in their efforts to be incorporated into Russia.
But the atmosphere in Russia is anything but festive.
Fears are high that Moscow will close the borders to men of military age after the end of referendums in Ukraine, causing long lines of cars at Russia’s borders. Telegram chats dedicated to some of these crossovers have swelled with thousands of new users.
The lines apparently persisted on Monday. The Yandex Maps online service showed an 18-kilometer traffic jam on a road in Russia’s North Ossetia region that leads to the border with Georgia, and the regional branch of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, deployed a armored vehicle to the crossing point. .
Officials told Russian news site RBC the action came ‘just in case reservists want to cross the (border) checkpoint and leave the country without completing any border formalities’, vowing not to restrict any exits .
“Notices of appeal are served to everyone. No one knows who will receive one tomorrow and so we have decided with friends for the time being to rest in a beautiful country,” said Roman Isif, a Russian who is spent in Larsi, Georgia in an interview with AP.

Long queues and crowds were reported at at least two of Moscow’s four airports on Sunday. Tickets to destinations still available to Russians after the European Union halted all direct flights – such as Turkey, Armenia, Serbia and Dubai – have been selling out for days, despite sky-high prices.
Russian media – including state media – reported on Monday that border guards had started turning the men back at the border, citing the Mobilization Law. It was not immediately clear how widespread the practice was.
Although state television painted a rosy picture of the mobilization campaign, with Russia 1 TV on Sunday showing crowds of eager men lining up to enlist “in almost every region”, the reality was different.
Enlistment offices and other administrative buildings have been burned down since the appeal began. Although such incidents, usually involving Molotov cocktails, were common during the 7-month invasion, they increased in number and frequency after Putin’s speech.
Russian independent news outlets have counted at least 17 such incidents in recent days, in addition to 37 before the mobilization was announced.
A man entered the enlistment office in the Siberian city of Ust-Ilimsk and opened fire, shooting the military commander at close range.
Russian media reported that the man, identified as 25-year-old Ruslan Zinin, was upset that his best friend who had no combat experience had been called up. The authorities said that such experience would be the main criterion for mobilization.
Zinin, who was arrested, reportedly said, “Nobody will go to fight” and “We will all go home now”. His victim was hospitalized in intensive care in “extremely serious” condition, according to the reports.

Also on Monday, a man at a bus station in Ryazan, a town about 200 kilometers southeast of Moscow, reportedly doused himself with flammable liquid and set himself on fire, shouting that he did not want to. participate in Russia’s “special military operation”. ” in Ukraine. He was reportedly slightly injured and arrested by the police.
As troubling as these incidents are, it is the spread of protests to strongholds far from Putin’s support base that may be of more concern to the Kremlin, with women confronting authorities over “taking our sons”. Although the mobilization totaled around 300,000 men, some media claim that the authorities plan to muster more than a million, which Moscow has denied.
Although the first demonstrations against the mobilization were brutally suppressed by the police, with hundreds of arrests soon after its announcement, others broke out in various regions. Over the weekend, women rallied against the call in the remote province of Yakutia in Russia’s far north.
In Mahachkala, the capital of the predominantly Muslim province of Dagestan, a crowd of women wearing headscarves gathered on Sunday, chanting “No to war”. Some of them chased a policeman from the protest, while others stood in front of a police car, preventing it from moving and demanding the release of protesters held inside.
Protests in Dagestan continued on Monday, with clashes between protesters and police. Outrage also spilled onto the streets of another region of the North Caucasus, Kabardino-Balkaria. The video showed a crowd of women surrounding a man in a suit, identified by the media as a local official, one shouting: “Do you know where you are sending him?” — an apparent reference to the mobilization of a loved one.
Dagestan, as well as the Siberian region of Buryatia, are among several areas where there are complaints that a disproportionate number of ethnic minorities were deployed to fight and died in Ukraine.
“For our state, we are not its citizens, but cannon fodder in this war. Just a resource,” said Pavel, a 40-year-old Buryatia resident who fled to Mongolia last week to avoid to be called. He spoke to AP on the condition that his last name not be used, fearing reprisals.
“Siberia and the Far East are actively being sold – timber, minerals, land leased for 50 years. And it turns out that the people who live here are also being turned into resources,” he added. .

Putin “is risking a lot by announcing the mobilization, he is losing support, he is creating a pre-revolutionary situation – protests, arson attacks at recruiting offices,” political analyst Abbas Gallyamov told AP.
Given the atmosphere of instability and Russia’s recent setbacks on the battlefield, the referendums in Ukraine are unlikely to have any influence on public opinion, he said.
“Nobody needs these referendums – not the Russian public, not even patriots,” Gallyamov added. assistance.
Andrei Kolesnikov, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, pointed out that polls indicate that about half of the Russian people unconditionally support the war, with about a third of whose support comes with caveats.
The latter constitutes “a reservoir of doubt and discontent”, Kolesnikov told AP. “It’s already clear that the mobilization is not partial, and if that becomes more and more evident, then the mood could start to change. Putin is taking a big risk.”