Gunman attacks Russian military recruiter as thousands flee mobilization

A young man shot and wounded the head of recruitment at a military enlistment post in Russia’s Irkutsk region on Monday, local authorities said. saidas thousands of military-age men continued to flee the country to escape President Vladimir Putin’s summons to war service in Ukraine.

The suspected shooter in the attack on the head of recruitment, at a military commissariat in Ust-Ilimsk, a small town in Irkutsk, was apparently upset that his close friend had been called up for service despite having no prior military service .

Putin, announcing the partial mobilization, had declared that only experienced military personnel would be summoned. “We are talking about partial mobilization,” the president said in a national speech. “In other words, only military reservists, primarily those who have served in the armed forces and have specific military occupational specialties and corresponding experience, will be called up.”

But there have been a torrent of reports from across Russia, including staunch supporters of the war, of people being summoned when they had no previous military service, or were too old or physically unable to go to the war. These reports, along with the government’s acknowledgment that thousands of military-age men had fled the country to avoid conscription, suggest that the chaotic mobilization is becoming the latest debacle in Putin’s war.

A video clip of Monday’s shooting showed the man, identified as Ruslan Zinin, 25, firing at least one shot inside the office.

“The shooter was immediately arrested and he will be permanently punished,” Irkutsk regional governor Igor Kobzev wrote on his Telegram blog. “I cannot understand what happened, and I am ashamed that this is happening at a time when, on the contrary, we should be united.”

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According to Kobzev, the recruiter, Alexander Eliseev, was hospitalized in critical condition.

Zinin’s mother, Marina Zinina, Told a Russian ASTRA outlet that his son was upset as his best friend received the summons despite having never served in the military.

“They said there would be a partial mobilization, but it turns out they’re taking everyone,” she reportedly said.

As local police stations raced to fill quotas, call-up notices were sent to men who should be legally exempt from service due to age, medical condition or lack of military experience.

Some were sent home after a public outcry. Others, like Viktor Dyachok, 59, who has stage 1 skin cancer and is blind in one eye, were called to work, the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported.

Amid swirling confusion over who might be summoned, thousands of Russians continued to flee the country on Monday, fearing the Kremlin would soon decide to close the borders to fleeing men. Meanwhile, resistance to the call for war service led to a series of other violent incidents.

In Ryazan, a city in western Russia, a man reportedly set himself on fire at a bus station in protest against the war in Ukraine. Local plug reported that the man, whom authorities have not yet identified, “started laughing and shouting that he did not want to participate in the special operation in Ukraine”, using the preferred euphemism of the Kremlin to designate war.

Video released by the outlet shows the man, who was not seriously injured, being led outside the bus terminal by police and paramedics.

Sporadic protests have erupted, including in Russian regions populated mainly by ethnic minorities like Dagestan, where the majority of residents are Muslim, or the indigenous lands of Buryatia and Yakutia. Local activists say these areas are disproportionately affected by the mobilization.

More than 2,300 protesters have been arrested in dozens of Russian cities since Putin announced the partial mobilization last Wednesday morning, according to a rights group. OVD-Infowhich monitors protest activities in the country.

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Traffic jams stretching for miles formed at border crossings with Georgia and Kazakhstan as the outflow of Russians continued through the weekend and into Monday.

“The traffic jam at the Russian-Georgian border continues to be about 20 kilometers long” – about 12.5 miles – “and the waiting times to enter Georgia are now three days”, Nikolai Levshitz, a Russian-speaking blogger who helps expats assimilate in Georgia, wrote in his daily Telegram update.

With air tickets to virtually all visa-free destinations having long since sold out, Russians are crossing on foot, by car or even by bicycle in hopes of reducing the waiting time before leaving. Photos and video clips posted on social media showed piles of abandoned bikes near border crossings.

A Russian man who arrived at Istanbul airport on Monday morning said he took a charter flight from Moscow because commercial flights were full and he paid around $5,000 for his seat.

Reports from Russia’s independent media over the weekend said authorities could close the country’s borders to men of military age as early as Wednesday.

Media outlets Meduza and Khodorkovsky Live, citing Russian government sources, each reported that Moscow would halt departures as soon as the results of organized referendums currently underway in parts of four Ukrainian regions occupied by Russian troops were announced. There is no doubt that the referendum results, which are illegal under Ukrainian and international law, will be reported by the Kremlin as showing overwhelming support for Russian annexation of the occupied territories.

Western countries have called the referendums a “sham” and on Monday the UK announced a new round of sanctions against 90 people and companies involved in organizing the process, which is expected to conclude on Tuesday.

“Sham referendums held at the barrel of a gun cannot be free or fair and we will never recognize their results,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement. “They follow a clear pattern of violence, intimidation, torture and forced evictions in areas of Ukraine that Russia has taken over.”

Kremlin holds proxy referendums as Russia aims to grab Ukrainian land

Putin and his supporters have signaled that once Russia absorbs the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, the Kremlin will view any Ukrainian attacks on these regions as direct strikes against Russia, which could warrant further retaliation. strong, including the use of nuclear weapons. , and also providing a basis for declaring partial or full martial law.

On Monday, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed those rumours, saying “no decision has been made in this regard.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of miles from Moscow, Putin met his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in the sunny Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Lukashenko allowed Putin to use Belarus as a staging point for an invasion of Ukraine in February, including Putin’s failed effort to seize Kyiv and overthrow the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In 2020, Lukashenko claimed to have won re-election in an election widely derided as fraudulent. He then cracked down on the protests, subjecting thousands to beatings and heavy prison sentences. Over the next two years, 100,000 to 200,000 people left Belarus.

At their Monday meeting, Lukashenko told Putin not to “worry” that the Russians are now doing the same.

“Let’s say there are 30,000, maybe 50,000 left,” Lukashenko told Putin of recent departures of Russian men. “So what? If they had stayed here, would they have been our people? Let them run,” Lukashenko said in his opening speech.

“I don’t know what you think about it, but I wasn’t too worried,” Lukashenko said, referring to the thousands who left in 2020. “Most are begging to come back,” he said. told Putin. “And yours will come back too.”

Robyn Dixon and Natalia Abbakumova in Riga, Latvia, and Kareem Fahim in Istanbul contributed to this report.

War in Ukraine: what you need to know

The last: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of troops in an address to the nation on September 21, describing the move as an attempt to defend Russian sovereignty against a West that seeks to use Ukraine as a tool to ” divide and destroy Russia”. .” Follow our live updates here.

The fight: A successful Ukrainian counteroffensive has forced a major Russian retreat into the northeastern Kharkiv region in recent days, as troops fled towns and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large quantities of military equipment.

Annexation referendums: Organized referendums, which would be illegal under international law, are set to take place September 23-27 in the breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, according to Russian news agencies. Another organized referendum will be organized by the Moscow-appointed administration in Kherson from Friday.

Pictures: Washington Post photographers have been in the field since the start of the war. Here are some of their most powerful works.

How you can help: Here’s how those in the United States can help support the people of Ukraine as well as what people around the world have donated.

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