Russian draft-dodgers not to blame

No one should be forced to kill or die for Putin’s vanity

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Editorials

October 3, 2022 - 1:34 PM

The Verkhni Lars customs checkpoint between Georgia and Russia on Sept. 28, 2022, in Zemo Larsi, Georgia. (Daro Sulakauri/Getty Images/TNS)

Vladimir Putin’s war is, first and foremost, a war against the Ukrainian people, who are being bombed, robbed, raped and killed by his army. But it is also a war against millions of Russians, whose lives and futures their president is willing to sacrifice in pursuit of his imperial fantasies. Tens of thousands of Russian soldiers have already died in battle. Having suffered a series of humiliating defeats in Ukraine, Mr. Putin plans to throw yet more young men and women into the furnace.

His order for mass mobilization has caused shock and panic in Russia. Mr. Putin calls it “partial mobilization,” but there appears to be no legal limit to the number of people he can force to go and fight. This has shattered the illusion among Russians that they could ignore his war, or support it passively without disruption to their daily lives.

Until now, those who oppose Mr. Putin’s war — roughly estimated to be at least 30% of Russians, most of them young — have been afraid to speak out. But mobilization has changed their calculus. Faced with the prospect of dying in a frozen Ukrainian field, many have loudly protested against the mobilization. In the past few days nearly 2,500 people have been detained in protests that have erupted from Dagestan to Yakutia. Some have emerged from police cells with visible injuries; others with draft papers. Many face prosecution. At least 20 military recruitment centers have been attacked or torched, sometimes resulting in the destruction of paper records identifying those eligible for the draft.

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