Thousands of Russians are currently considering fleeing the country to neighboring countries. These people are not scared of a Ukrainian attack or threats coming from an enemy of Russia. They are scared of compulsory military service after President Putin announced a partial mobilization of the country’s military reserve.
“In order to protect our motherland, its sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and to ensure the safety of our people and people in the liberated territories, I consider it necessary to support the proposal of the defense ministry and the General Staff to conduct a partial mobilization in the Russian Federation,” Putin said in a televised statement.
Mr. Putin said: “Only citizens who are currently in the reserves and, above all, those who have served in the armed forces, have military skills and relevant experience” would be mobilized in the new arrangement.
What a partial mobilization means
As the term implies, partial mobilization means conscripting new soldiers from a specific group of people. It is unlike a general mobilization which involves drafting new soldiers from the general population. In the case of Russia, only citizens that previously served in the army would be added to the country’s military at this time.
How many Russian reservists will be called up by the military?
The Russian military has as many as 25 million reservists that could be called up for compulsory military service. However, the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said only 1% of Russian fall into the category of reservists that would be mobilized.
With that, at least 300,000 thousand more men and women would be compelled to take up military service in the coming weeks and months, and there are already specualations that the reservists are already receiving an order to resume their service. Russia invaded Ukraine with about 150,000 soldiers, and an additional 300,000 would not be a figure to be downplayed.
Despite the alarming number of reservists available to the Kremlin, a US based Institute for the Study of War believes Russian reservists are not fully prepared for war, as very only 10% are actively trained or prepared for war after their military service.
Other Russians that fall into the category to be mobilized have the right to refuse the compulsory military service. Those who fall under this category include students, parents with four or more small children, and caregivers.
Andrei Kartapolov, the head of Russian parliament’s defense committee, said there would be an even distribution of reservists based on the population of each region. “Each [region] of the Russian Federation receives a distribution order based on its capabilities,” Kartapolov said Wednesday after Putin’s speech.
Renewed nuclear threats
President Putin, in his address, said the West and Ukraine were blackmailing Russia with nuclear threats, adding that the Kremlin would do all it takes to defend its territory.
“Nuclear blackmail has also been used,” he said, adding that a top NATO official said the bloc might permit the use of weapons of mass destruction against Russia.
“I would like to remind those who make such statements about Russia that our country also possesses various means of destruction, and in some cases, they are more modern than those of NATO countries,” Putin continued. “When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we, of course, will use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.”
With Ukraine gradually reclaiming its territories, the next move of the Russian leader is unknown, and the Kremlin has not denied the possibility of using nuclear weapons. The recent successes recorded by the Ukrainian army have further raised the fears that the use of nuclear weapons might not be so far away.
The words of President Putin further raised suspicion when he said: “Those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them.”
To emphasize his point, he restated that Russia would defend its territories “with all means that we have at our disposal.”
The fleeing Russians
This is not the first time that the Russian President is considering compelling citizens to serve in the country’s military. In February and March, soon after Ukraine’s invassion, many Russians fled to neigboring Turkey, Armenia and Georgia. Exactly the same thing is expected after Putin’s address on Wednesday.
After Putin’s address, Russian airfare aggregators said all flights from Moscow to the few European countries still allowing Russians to come in were already sold out within minutes. The discussion around the country’s social media is centered on ways to escape from the country.
However, Latvia, which shares a land border with Russia, immediately issued a statement that it would not open its borders to Russians fleeing because of Putin’s new decree over security concerns.
The statement said Latvia “will not issue humanitarian or other types of visas to those Russian citizens who avoid mobilization,” citing security concerns.