Russian police have arrested thousands of anti-war protesters after President Vladimir Putin’s partial draft of reserve forces. Armed forces detained over 1,300 Russian civilians in almost thirty-nine cities. The Russian human rights group OVD confirmed over five hundred in Moscow and just less than this in St. Petersburg. Russian law enforcement took another fifty into custody in Yekaterinburg, the fourth largest city in Russia.
The mass protests were in reaction to a rare televised public address during which Putin declared a call-up of three hundred thousand Russian reservists. This is to undo Russia’s recent setbacks in the Ukraine war; in particular, the embarrassment of having to withdraw from the formerly occupied zone in the country’s northeast region.
Putin blames the West for the crisis and emphasized his anger during his address, stating that “in the face of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal.”
“This is not a bluff,” he concluded, alluding to a threat of nuclear war. “I will emphasize this again: with all the means at our disposal.”
President Putin also hinted at the possibility of annexing Ukrainian occupied areas after those regions put forth pro-Russia referendums.
No to War: Russians’ message to President Putin
It was a fight or flight moment in Russia yesterday with some Russians taking to the streets and others booking one-way flights out of the country. Long lines of those waiting to escape have appeared along the border in Russia. Meanwhile, Google recorded a massive increase in both the demand for and costs of flights departing the country.
Georgia and Finland were the neighboring countries that saw the most Russian civilians attempting to escape by land. Meanwhile, Istanbul, Belgrade, and Dubai saw the highest ticket demand for those making a run for it by air.
Men who do not want to enlist in the war were also amongst the many to flee. Some claimed that police handed male protesters draft papers at stations, which also fueled the rush to the borders. Russian men eligible for conscription fear not only the front lines but also the possibility of captivity by Ukrainian forces. According to the Kremlin, however, the media had greatly exaggerated those claims.
U.N. Assembly condemns Vladimir Putin’s actions
The U.N. is determined to hold firm on its stance regarding the Russian – Ukrainian War despite the negative impact of sanctions on the global economy. During its general assembly today, it expressed its deep concern of plans for the so-called ‘referenda.’ President Putin was reminded that the annexation of a state’s territory by another state violates state charter, and that the threat of nuclear conflict was ‘totally unacceptable.’ Guterres also addressed allegations of Russia’s human rights abuses.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, addressed the Assembly in a pre-recorded video statement. During his address, he accused Russia of committing “a crime against Ukraine” and demanded “just punishment.”
Egils Levits, President of Latvia stated that “today, we learn that partial mobilization has been declared in Russia, as their once-mighty army is overwhelmed.”
He was speaking in reference to the defense mounted by Ukraine and called the “blitzkrieg” envisaged by President Vladimir Putin “a long nightmare.”
He also emphasised the threat of Moscow’s plans to hold illegal referenda in the coming days on the annexation of Donetsk and Luhansk. These, Putin hopes, would join the Russian Federation.
Latvia would not recognize the legitimacy of these referenda, he asserted. He also called for the establishment of a special tribunal. Its main task would be to investigate the responsibility of the Russian Federation in the crime of aggression.
East versus West: Joe Biden on Vladimir Putin
President Joe Biden also condemned Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine and the consequent invasion of the country.
“Let us speak plainly: a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded its neighbor, attempted to erase the sovereign state from the map,” he said at the U.N. headquarters in New York City.
“Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations’ charter,” which clearly prohibits countries “taking the territory of their neighbor by force,” Biden said.
He also emphasized the illegality of the war. “Putin’s own words make his true purpose unmistakable: just before he invaded, Putin asserted, and I quote, ‘Ukraine was created by Russia’ and never had ‘real statehood,'” Biden said.
“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple,” Biden maintained.
This, of course, is not the first time Biden and Putin have gone head to head, and it will most likely not be the last.
Until the war ends, Putin remains persona non-grata for the President of the United States, the U.N., and most leaders in the West.