The Kremlin wants you to know there’s absolutely no panic in Russia a day after Vladimir Putin called up hundreds of thousands to go fight in Ukraine—just ignore the burning military recruitment offices, protests shutting down highways, and college students being snatched from their classes to go kill or be killed.
It’s also absolutely normal for protesters to be pulled from jail and sent to the front, and reports of men flocking to airports to get the hell out of the country are “fake,” according to Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.
“Information about some kind of fuss at airports is greatly exaggerated. There is a lot of fake information appearing about this,” Peskov was quoted saying by the Interfax news agency.
He went on to defend the distribution of draft notices to protesters who took to the streets to condemn the new war effort, deferred other questions about the supposedly “partial” mobilization to the defense ministry, and said a new bombshell report about Putin’s decree allowing for up to 1 million citizens to be drafted is a “lie.”
The report, by Novaya Gazeta Europe, cited a source in the presidential administration who said the one redacted clause in Putin’s mobilization order contained a provision for up to 1 million people to be called up for service.
“The figure was changed several times, and in the end, they settled on a million,” the unnamed source said, adding that defense officials initially wanted to keep the whole document classified before deciding to keep only the seventh clause secret.
The fallout from the mobilization has only intensified during day two, as footage has emerged in local media showing the first draftees being boarded on planes, trains, and buses.
“What are we going for? Fuck knows where we’re all going! Fuck!” one newly drafted man in Buryatia yelled as he filmed a crowd of clearly drunk men waiting to board their bus.
In St. Petersburg, a military recruitment office was set ablaze overnight, with two other less successful arson attacks carried out in Orenburg and Zabaykalsy Krai, according to Mediazona.
While defense officials have claimed they will only call up men with prior military service, myriad reports have emerged from various Russian regions suggesting the mobilization is absolutely indiscriminate.
In Buryatia, reports emerged of local schools literally being turned into mobilization centers and of men being rounded up by the dozens in villages.
“A draft notice came for my father this evening. He never served, he has no military education, no military ticket, and he falls into the category [of health exceptions],” read one plea for help shared by the advocacy group Free Buryatia Foundation.
“Leave for Mongolia, everyone who can. If you don’t have an international passport–hide! People are being taken away by buses,” the group warned.
In Ulan-Ude, several college students were pulled straight out of their classrooms and sent off, accompanied by police officers, to begin their service, The Village reported.
Fights also reportedly broke out at some military recruitment offices where men showed up to protest, including in Dagestan, where protesters in the Babayurtovsky District temporarily shut down a highway.
In Derbent, a staffer at the local military recruitment office was confronted by protesters condemning the mobilization. When she urged a crowd of angry men to show their patriotism and go fight for their “future,” one shot back to say the “special military operation” has nothing to do with defending the motherland and is just “politics.”
“We don’t even have a present, what future are you talking about,” another protester yelled.
Meanwhile, defense officials appeared to only crack down more brutally than ever on dissenters. In Chechnya, after dozens of women were detained for protesting the mobilization in Grozny on Wednesday, their sons and husbands were rounded up and sent to serve on the front, according to local human rights activists.
The women’s family members were summoned while the women themselves were still being interrogated, and some of the men were then forced “to sign documents that they’re going to Ukraine as volunteers,” activist Ibragim Yangulbayev was quoted telling The Insider.
Any men hoping to avoid the mobilization may also find it’s too late to simply flee the country—The Moscow Times reported Thursday that authorities have begun questioning departing passengers at Moscow airports, with men taken aside and asked for details on their military status. Belarusian security services have also reportedly been tasked with monitoring any Russian men who arrive so they can send back any draft dodgers.
But some are reportedly considering drastic measures. Nikita, a 29-year-old from Moscow who told Meduza he was given a draft notice late Wednesday after being detained at a protest against mobilization, said he will “definitely” not go and fight.
“As a last resort, I will cut off my finger, but I will not shoot.”
The Russian Defense Ministry, meanwhile, is hailing the mobilization as a great success, telling Zvezda on Thursday that nearly 10,000 people turned up at military recruitment offices in the past day “voluntarily, without waiting for draft notices.”