Protesters were chanting ‘No mobilisation!’
Russian police officers, one of them with letter “Z” on his uniform, a symbol of support of the military invasion in Ukraine, detain a protester during an unsanctioned anti-war protest rally on 21 September 2022, in Moscow, Russia. Credit: Getty Images
“Everyone is scared. I am for peace and I don’t want to have to shoot. But coming out now is very dangerous, otherwise there would be many more people,” said protester Vasily Fedorov, a student wearing a pacifist symbol on his chest.
“Why are they deciding my future for me? I’m scared for myself, for my brother,” she added.
An activist holding anti-mobilisation poster during an unsanctioned protest rally on 21 September 2022, in Moscow, Russia. The sign “Net mogilizacii”, written in Cyrilic means “No burialization”. Credit: Getty Images
Alina Skvortsova, 20, said she hoped Russians would soon understand the nature of the Kremlin’s offensive in neighbouring Ukraine.
All the demonstrations were stopped and those who committed “violations” were arrested and led away by police pending an investigation and prosecution, it added.
Flights out of Russia were nearly fully booked this week, airline and travel agent data showed Wednesday, in an apparent exodus of people unwilling to join the conflict.
Joe Biden rebukes Vladimir Putin, condemns ‘nuclear threats’
“Just today, President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe,” Mr Biden said in his address to the annual UN General Assembly, lambasting Mr Putin’s “irresponsible” stance.
United States President Joe Biden. Source: ABACA / Pool/ABACA/PA
Russian forces have attacked Ukrainian schools, railway stations and hospitals, the US president said, to pursue a war aimed at “extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state.”
President Putin’s mobilisation order came as 10 prisoners of war — including two from the United States and five from Britain — were freed as part of an exchange between Russia and Ukraine.
Donetsk and Lugansk in the east and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south are holding votes over five days beginning Friday — ramping up the stakes in the conflict by allowing Moscow to accuse Ukraine of attacking supposedly Russian territory.
A man holds a dog near a house affected by the rocket attack of Russian troops, Zaporizhzhia Region, southeastern Ukraine. Credit: (Dmytro Smolienko/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
‘Not a bluff’
Mr Putin announced a partial military mobilisation, with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu telling state television that some 300,000 reservists would be called up.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview released Wednesday that he did not think Mr Putin would resort to nuclear weapons.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz denounced the call-up as “an act of desperation” in a “criminal war” he said Russia could not win.
In a rare admission of military losses from Moscow, Mr Shoigu said on Wednesday 5,937 Russian soldiers had died in Ukraine since the launch of the military intervention in February.
Ukrainian soldiers sit on a armoured personnel carrier (APC) on their way to the frontline against Russian troops in the Donetsk region on 21 September, 2022. Source: AFP / (Photo by ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images)
‘Liberate us from what?’
The referendums follow a pattern established in 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine after a similar vote.
Beijing, which so far has tacitly backed Moscow’s intervention called on Wednesday for a “ceasefire through dialogue” and in likely reference to the referendums said the “territorial integrity of all countries should be respected”.
“We will destroy everyone who comes to our land with weapons — whether voluntarily or by mobilisation,” Ukrainian armed forces commander-in-chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi wrote on Facebook.
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