On September 21, Putin decreed the « partial mobilization » of 300,000 reservists, to be sent to Ukraine. Referring to nuclear weapons, he added, « We will use all means at our disposal. »
The offensive of the Ukrainian army, heavily armed by NATO, has provoked what the Biden administration was expecting: a new escalation towards a generalized conflict. The announcement of the mobilization and its immediate implementation caused an earthquake throughout Russia. As early as September 21, calls to rally were circulating. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of young people, women and workers gathered to shout « No to war! » The OVD-info website counted at least 1,386 arrests. Report from our correspondents in Russia.
On September 21, the War Entered Every Russian Home
On September 21, the war entered every home. As soon as Putin’s speech was given, hits on Internet search engines broke records: « How to break an arm » – « How to leave the country« … but also « revolution. » On the 21st and 22nd, miles of lined-up cars were seen at the border crossings between Russia and Georgia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia, to escape the mobilization of reservists. No one, however, will cross the border between Russia and the Baltic States, which are all members of the European Union and NATO. « Every citizen is responsible for the actions of his State » and Estonia will not give asylum to Russians fleeing the mobilization, Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas has brazenly declared.
The Duma (Parliament) published the law on partial mobilization and increased prison sentences for those who refuse military service. On the other hand, it decreed that federal, regional and municipal deputies and senior officials will be exempted from going to war, not to mention the oligarchs. The opposition movement Vesna writes:
« The senior civil servants who are crying out for mobilization of reservists will stay warm in their chairs, and alive and well. They are the ones who should be mobilized and sent to Ukraine: let them go and die for their follies, rather than sending ordinary guys to their deaths.”
« What does the mobilization of reservists mean to the average Russian? »
The Union of Marxists, one of the workers’ organizations opposed to the war, explains:
« What does mobilization mean for the average Russian? For the young person who, having graduated after being forced to pay for the privatized university, cannot find a job? For the father of a family with two children, whose salary has not been paid since the beginning of the summer? What does the mobilization mean for the nurse who, for years, has been forced to work overtime because of the lack of staff? It means that the bourgeois State has nothing else to offer its citizens but to become human shields to protect the wallets of the big bosses and the MPs, who are exempted from going to war.”
Workers rounded up in the factories
Beginning September 21, the men were summoned to the Voenkomat (registration offices). In Tambov, a woman explains:
« Law enforcement came to the office where my cousin works, and they put the employees in a minibus for the military enlistment office. » In Surgut: « The summons were distributed to the homes. People are being picked up at factories and enterprises. » In Yakutia: « They took my father, he is 58 years old. They came at night to give him the summons, and now he is on his way to the military
unit. » In the Republic of Buryatia: « In all remote villages and Ulan-Ude, they distributed summons. Even people in their sixties received one. »
The cost of the war
According to the Moscow Times, the mobilization will cost the equivalent of nine times the annual budget of Murmansk (in the far northwest) or 56 times the annual budget of the Kalmykia Republic (on the coast of the Caspian Sea). At the same time, Andrei Kartapolov, head of the Duma’s national defense committee, made it clear – in a country where millions of workers are forced to go into debt – that « mobilized citizens will continue to pay their mortgage debts.”
From the 21st, calls for demonstrations at 7 p.m. were circulating: « Together with the entire anti-war movement, we call on the anti-war movement, we call on the Russian military: refuse to participate in the war! No to moguilization » (moguila: the grave). In Moscow, thousands of young and old gathered on the Arbat (old street in the historical center). In tight rows, they chanted, « No to war! » The police arrested the demonstrators one by one, with the usual violence. Despite the repression, hundreds of young people descended the Arbat with the same slogan.
In Izhevsk (Ural), demonstrators spontaneously gathered in front of a street musician who sang songs by Egor Letov: at each anti-war verse, people applauded. In Lenin Square in Novosibirsk, according to the local media, about a hundred people came to protest, as in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad (strangled by the NATO blockade). In the Caucasian republic of Dagestan, on the outskirts of the village of Babayurt, hundreds of residents blocked the road in an attempt to block the minibuses filled with reservists.
Authorities in Uzbekistan (the former Soviet Republic in Central Asia where hundreds of thousands of migrant workers are from) ordered their citizens in Russia not to participate in the « illegal » rallies.
Women at the forefront
Everywhere, women, mothers and wives of reservists are on the front lines. In St. Petersburg, on September 21, in the late afternoon, they gathered on St. Isaac’s Square, surrounded by police. They chanted « No to war! » in front of the police who tried to disperse them. Unimaginable until 24 hours ago: a rally of women against the war took place in Grozny, capital of Chechnya and in a Caucasian republic held with an iron fist by the mafioso Ramzan Kadyrov, a protégé of the Kremlin.
It was the first such protest rally since 2004! According to the channel 1ADAT, the 130 women gathered near a mosque were arrested even before the beginning of the demonstration. Among them were mothers of Kadyrovtsy, elite soldiers of the private army that Kadyrov sent to Ukraine.
In the trade unions
Among the first reactions of independent trade union organizations was that of the University Solidarity union:
« It is impossible for us to remain silent … . We have expressed our position on many occasions: we are categorically opposed to aggressive military action in any form. We are categorically opposed to any form of militaristic propaganda, especially in educational institutions … . It is through struggle, not in a fratricidal war, that we will get our rights! »
The mobilization of reservists is the pretext to strike more and more at the workers’ movement. On September 22, a Moscow court once again extended the pretrial detention of Kirill Ukratsev, an activist of the Kurier delivery workers’ union, who was arrested at the end of April during the delivery workers’ strike in Moscow. His request to be placed under house arrest, despite the fact that his health has seriously deteriorated in prison, was once again rejected.
The « denazification”
Putin justifies his military aggression by the « denazification » of Ukraine, referring to the very real neo-Nazi groups that are swarming, even in the army, in Ukraine. Just as they are swarming in Russia, even in the State apparatus. But now Putin and Zelensky have proceeded to a prisoner exchange, thanks to the « humanitarian » mediation of Turkish President Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Ben Salman.
To get his old friend back – the Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, godfather to one of his daughters – Putin returned 215 fighters to Zelensky, including 108 members of the neo-Nazi Azov regiment. One woman’s comment, among hundreds of others, on the Internet: « These bastards are sending our children to Ukraine, supposedly to ‘fight the Nazis’ while they are releasing them to save their buddies! »
Zyuganov supports Putin
As usual, the leader of the « Communist » Party, Gennady Zyuganov, supports Putin and says, referring to the struggle of the Soviet people against Nazism: « Each generation has the right to its 1941 (date of the Nazi attack on the USSR ed.) but also to its 1945. »
An activist of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party commented:
« Licking the boots of his own bourgeoisie and supporting all its decisions – even the most unpopular ones among the workers – Zyuganov has forgotten one small detail: the class character of the USSR, which was the first workers’ State in the world. Today, the class character of the State is different. Moreover, according to point 2 of the presidential decree, citizens enlisted in the army can lose their jobs. One can appreciate this delicate attention of the State for its own soldiers! It was not in 1941, but in 1914 that we saw such things in the past. But 1914 was followed by the collapse of tsarism and the October Revolution. »