KYIV, Ukraine – The Kremlin has deployed additional forces to support its faltering war effort, but these units are heading not toward Ukraine but to Russia’s borders with other countries, where they were on Tuesday confronted young Russian men trying to join a country evacuation.
As the ways for the Russians to escape the draft order issued last week narrowed, the Federal Security Service sent armored vehicles to the border, where several men waiting to flee were being received. enlistment letter, state media reported.
The rush to the border began within hours of President Vladimir V. Putin notification last week when a military call affected hundreds of thousands of Russians, and the flow has only gotten bigger since then. Although the Kremlin denied reports that it might soon ban virtually all men of military age from leaving the country, many Russians didn’t get the chance.
On Tuesday, at the borders of Georgia, Kazakhstan and even Mongolia, their numbers continued to grow, sometimes increasing tensions.
In Kazakhstan, responding to calls that the 4,600-mile border with Russia be closed, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev appealed for “humanity, patience and organization”, saying the Russians had been “forced to leave” because of the current hopeless situation.”
With cars lining up for kilometers at the border and waiting more than 48 hours, Georgia said it would allow visitors to walk in. The number of people trying to enter the country nearly doubled in the past week, to about 10,000 a day, the interior minister said.
Forces of the Security Service of the Russian Federation, the main successor to the KGB, have been deployed at border crossings to ensure that reservists do not leave the country “without completing formalities”. border,” the agency said in a statement.
Tensions also ran high on Tuesday in Europe, where some officials pointed the finger at Moscow after Suspicious leak has been detected of two gas pipelines running from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. Amid concerns about possible sabotage, Sweden’s national seismic network said it detected two large explosions on the seabed on Monday near the leak sites and that three countries were investigating. .
With little mystery about the expected outcome of the vote, which was conducted under armed guard, the only question left hanging at the end of the day is exactly when the Russian government will announce that they will officially annex four territories in eastern and southern Ukraine.
The votes were staged a sham practice among democracy, human rights groups and Western officials said.
For four days, Ukrainians were alternately tricked and bullied into voting in Kremlin-administered referendums. Russian authorities and their confidants in Ukraine have mixed crude intimidation tactics – including placing armed men in ski masks at polling stations – with Orwellian messaging and a few crashes into festivals, among them attending concerts in the central square sparingly.
Dmytro Orlov, the exiled mayor of the occupied city of Melitopol, said in an interview: “They banged loudly, they rang the doorbell, they gave everyone a vote and pointed to their rifles. to the position to be marked.
The referendums have received widespread international condemnation, and world leaders have vowed not to recognize the alleged results. But that didn’t stop Moscow from publishing them.
On Tuesday evening, Russian state media reported what they described as a result showing a huge level of support for joining Russia. Russian news agency Tass reported 92.68% support in Zaporizhzhia, 86% in Kherson in the south and 93.95% in Donetsk and 98.53 in Luhansk, both in the east.
Ukrainian and Western officials say Russia will likely use the referendums to fabricate another pretext for war, more than seven months after the full-blown invasion began.
In the coming days, as Ukrainian forces continue the battle to regain their land seize by Russian forces in the east and to the south, Moscow is expected to assert that Ukraine is attacking Russia, not vice versa – and that it will defend itself by all means.
On Tuesday, Dmitri Medvedev, Russia’s former president who now serves as vice chairman of the country’s security council, reiterated on Telegram that Moscow has the right to defend itself with nuclear weapons and said it was “certainly not must be a hoax.”
For all the flimsy, sometimes absurd theater of referendums, the security implications for Europe are deadly serious, and Ukrainians are anxiously pondering whether Mr. how far to go.
“The mood is very confident,” Oleksandr Danylyuk, former secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said in an interview. “They believe in the Army. But everyone is talking about nuclear. They’re worried.”
A formal merger would require a vote in the Russian Parliament. Mr Putin is expected to address both chambers on Friday, suggesting that a vote on the merger could follow, Britain’s military intelligence agency reported.
Ukrainians expressed fear that an immediate consequence of the annexation would be the joining of the Russian army, forcing those in the occupied territories to take up arms against their country. In the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, which have been controlled by Russia and its trustees since 2014, it is was the case.
After months of facing heavy casualties, Russia may need any help to sustain its war efforts.
Western officials estimate that as many as 80,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded in the fighting, and in recent weeks Russian forces have been driven out of territory they previously occupied during the engagement. painting.
Faced with losses, Mr. Putin, after a long time fighting a big draftlast week ordered “partial mobilization”, called 300,000 people to join the fight. The order is described as applying only to people with military experience, but throughout Russia – and especially in remote areas and among ethnic minority groups – there are many reports of people with no experience getting caught up in it.
While many Russians headed for the border, others took to the streets despite the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissidents. The chaotic call sparked a wave of discontent, with protests in more than 50 cities, According to the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. More than 2,300 people have been detained under anti-protest laws in the past week, according to OVD-Info, a group that monitors political arrests in Russia.
Still others tried to sabotage. The newspaper said the registration and enlistment offices suffered 21 attacks during the same period. In Siberia on Monday, a recruiting officer was fatally shot by a gunman people seem to have been very nervous about mobilization.
The leaders of several European nations, which have struggled to respond to a historic number of refugees fleeing Russia’s wars, debated what approach to take to all of them. even young people who are fleeing Russia itself.
The EU border agency says Russian nationals have fled to the European Union en masse since the military summons was issued. From September 19 to September 25, nearly 66,000 Russian nationals entered EU countries, up 30% from the previous week, the agency said in a statement.
Some Russians may find a welcome from a Central Asian neighbor, Mongolia. A former president of Mongolia, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, urged the Buryats, an ethnic Russian, to flee there to avoid maneuver.
“Don’t shoot the Ukrainians,” he said in one video address recorded in English. “Don’t shoot your sisters, brothers and sisters, children and elders.”
Melissa Eddy and Victoria Kim contribution report.