posted on 09/23/2022 06:00
(credit: Security Service of Ukraine/AFP)
Demonstrations against the call-up of 300,000 reservists, mass arrests and the flight of Russian men from the country marked the first day of enlistment for fighters who will reinforce Vladimir Putin’s troops in Ukraine. In the diplomatic realm, the president’s threats to use nuclear weapons against the West have deepened Russia’s isolation. Chancellor Sergei Lavrov walked out of an extraordinary ministerial-level meeting at the Security Council of the United Nations (UN), after refuting allegations of abuses committed by his country’s forces. “The United States and its allies, with the collusion of international human rights organizations, are covering up the crimes of the Kiev regime,” he declared, calling Volodymyr Zelensky’s government a “Nazi totalitarian state.”
During the Security Council meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned: “The international order we are trying to save here is being destroyed before our eyes.” “We cannot let President Putin get away with it,” he added. Washington’s diplomatic chief said Moscow was seeking to “pour oil on the fire” by announcing referendums on the annexation of four regions of Ukraine: Donetsk and Luhansk, in the east; and Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south.
In turn, President Zelensky himself urged the Russians to protest against the mobilization of reservists or to surrender. “Fifty-five thousand Russian soldiers died in this war in six months (…) Do you want more? No? So protest! Fight! run away! Or surrender” to the Ukrainian army, he said, in Russian, in a video message. “These are your options for survival,” he added, citing that the Kremlin intends to summon 1 million troops.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff of Russia announced that around 10,000 people volunteered between Wednesday and yesterday to fight in Ukraine. In images published on social media, supposedly in the city of Yakutia (Siberia), men with tight expressions hugged family members and some cried, before boarding buses. The day before yesterday alone, protests against recruitment were registered in 38 Russian cities, with the arrest of 1,332 people.
Yesterday, Ukraine and Russia completed a major prisoner exchange with Moscow, which involved 215 Ukrainian military prisoners, including commanders of the Azov Battalion, who were mutinied at Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant. On the Russian side, 55 soldiers returned to the country, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
A senior Kiev official said that “many” Ukrainian prisoners were “brutally tortured” in captivity. “There are people whose physical condition is more or less normal, in addition to chronic malnutrition due to poor conditions of detention,” said Kyrylo Budanov, in charge of the Intelligence Department at the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, who participated in organizing the prisoner exchange. Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky assured that “absolutely all” exchanged Ukrainians “need psychological rehabilitation”.
Reinforcing Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, number two on the country’s Security Council, assured that Russia is prepared to launch an atomic attack against the West if the need arises. “Russian hypersonic missiles are capable of hitting targets in Europe and the United States much faster than Western weapons,” he said.
Researcher and doctoral student at the University of São Paulo (USP), Cesar Albuquerque told the Correio that the context of the war presents an interesting movement, marked by the strengthening of protests against the Russian government and the exodus of young people. “These are reservists who have no military training and do not wish to be involved in the conflict,” he explained. “This shows the growth of popular dissatisfaction within Russia against the war. It is necessary to assess how this movement will take shape, but it has a direct impact on Putin’s own political sustainability.”
In addition to pressure from the international community, with the application of sanctions, the Kremlin chief has to deal with internal opposition. “That puts your job in jeopardy. The president’s position is increasingly undermined. Zelensky intends to strengthen this movement, not just through Western support, but by seeking support against the Russian government,” Albuquerque said. He admits that the difficulty in mobilizing the reservists could magnify Putin’s fragility at home.
According to Ukrainian Peter Zalmayev, director of the NGO Eurasia Democracy Initiative (in Kiev), Putin does not see a clear path to military victory. “He needs to stop Ukraine’s counter-offensive. Losing more territory is the greatest threat to the Kremlin and to the president’s own power,” he told the report.
“The Most Sensitive Moment”
credit: personal archive
“In pragmatic terms, I believe that weapons of mass destruction would be used as a last resort if the Ukrainian army’s advances reached Russian borders or Putin’s position was severely damaged, with the risk of him losing power. to occur, in the medium term, would be the use of atomic weapons of low destructive power, which would still cause a great deal of damage.
Regarding the conflict, I consider this moment to be the most sensitive for Russia. In addition to the losses, Moscow faces difficulties in mobilizing reservists and strengthening a war-critical movement within Russia. This context is reinforced by the economic crisis, as a result of Western sanctions, and by the population’s dissatisfaction with sending untrained young people to fight on a front where the result has not been positive. This is the most negative moment for Russia.”