The Kremlin tries to calm the Russian fury in the face of a chaotic mobilization | Russia

It took Alina three visits to the local conscription center to get her husband out of the Russian war in Ukraine.

She knew the local officials managing the mobilization in her town south of Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, she said. So when her husband, who has health problems because of his weight and who served in the army more than 15 years ago, was called, she started nagging them to reconsider his case. .

“I said to them, ‘What war?’ Have they gone mad? And the top [official] just gave me this sad look,” she said.

But as protests erupted last week in Dagestan and anger grew over conscription, she said, something has changed. Suddenly they told her that her husband’s call was a mistake.

“They told me we were lucky,” she said, “but they couldn’t help us if there was another round. [of mobilisation].”

Russia first project since WWII caused unprecedented chaos and anger across the country. Hundreds of thousands of men have left their homes: some taken to fight in Ukraine, others still head for the borders to avoid conscription. A popular gag is now showing internet memes with the men airbrushed. “Meanwhile in Moscow,” the joke goes.

Today, in an effort to save Vladimir Putin’s conscription, an army of Russian propagandists and local technocrats ostensibly criticize the process, pointing to a few “bad apples” in Russian recruiting centers rather than military failures and the bad decisions Putin made that drove the war into its eighth month.

Russians cross the border into Georgia to escape military service in Ukraine.
Photography: Daro Sulakauri/Getty Images

Every day, Margarita Simonyan, director of the RT media company and famous pro-war hawk, publishes the stories of Russians who she says were illegally given summonses. The naming and shaming are meant to put pressure on editorial boards, she says. But it also bolsters his political credentials as someone who can lobby the government for reprieves from the project.

“Do you really think that if [Putin] did not even want to send conscripts to Ukraine, he wanted to send hairdressers, female cardiologists, people with back pain, the teacher of the year from Pskov, a musician in an orchestra or a theater director? she told state television last week.

Criticism from editorial boards deflects pressure away from Putin, whom Simonyan often calls simply “the boss.”

“They are all trying to act in Putin’s interest in one way or another,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of analyst firm R.Politik. “It’s not that any of them really regret what happened or think Putin’s approach is wrong… they’re trying to iron out the excesses of the system. To protect Putin.

Stanovaya added that the knee-jerk reaction reminded him of Russia’s response to the pandemic: “The government is not fully developed. It cannot solve problems that affect large social circles.

Mobilization appears more unpopular than the war itself. To forestall anger, even Putin criticized the process. “If a mistake is made, I repeat, it must be corrected,” he said during a teleconference with his security council last week. “Those who have been called up without a valid reason must be sent home.”

As the project grew increasingly controversial, a series of celebrities and journalists sought to allay fears in Moscow by announcing that it was now overseen by Sergei Sobyanin, the city’s mayor, who fetishizes solutions based on the data to the problems of the city.

“The Moscow project has been subjected to additional scrutiny,” wrote Ksenia Sobchak, a Russian public figure who is the daughter of Putin’s former mentor. “Well, let’s be fair: Sobianine does.”

For years, the Russian government has sought to replace free and fair elections with technocratic solutions to everyday problems. Trust the managers we install, go pitch, and we promise they’ll listen to your concerns. This reflection has now moved on to the mobilization of Putin. While the project itself is beyond reproach, they argue vehemently over how poorly it is handled.

There is a feeling that Russian politicians and pundits are auditioning for higher roles in government on a topic that has deeply touched most Russian homes. “You can see that there are powerful new players trying to forge political influence in all this chaos,” said Alexey Kovalev, head of the investigative bureau of Meduza, an independent Russian-language news site. based in Riga, Latvia.

They include the Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner Group Mercenary Army and The leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, Kovalev said. “But there’s also Sobianine…and he’s trying to portray himself as this benevolent technocratic leader who’s going to show everyone how this can be optimized.”

An image of Russian President Vladimir Putin appears on a screen in Moscow's Red Square
An image of Russian President Vladimir Putin appears on a screen in Moscow’s Red Square as he addresses a rally and concert marking the annexation of four regions of Ukraine. Photograph: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

At the Sakharovo migration center on the outskirts of Moscow, Sobyanin announced a “one-stop shop” for migrants who might want to join the war effort while applying for their jobs or citizenship documents. (Activists complained last week that migrants were being persuaded with leaflets in languages ​​such as Tajik to sign year-long contracts with the armed forces in order to obtain their citizenship.)

A temporary mobilizing point at the Moscow Museum is a clean, minimalist aesthetic and crisp sans-serif typefaces. It exudes the cool airspace aesthetic that has become ubiquitous in Sobyanin’s modern Moscow. While men wait inside, a television broadcasts old Soviet war films in black and white. It looks like one of the pop-up vaccination centers or local registration offices, known as My Documents centers, that Sobyanin has built to simplify paperwork in the capital.

The team at Veter Fall Fest, a pop-up market with local brands, didn’t even notice that a raffle center had been built at the museum, where their festival was going to take place, until it was too late. “We have decided not to hide this information and not to risk the safety of not only our festival participants, but our thousands of readers,” said the Veteran magazine said in a press release cancellation of the event. Anti-mobilization campaigners have warned Russians to stay away from recruiting centers to avoid being coerced into enlisting. In Dagestan, officials took a more traditional route, chastising their subordinates for their enthusiastic efforts to recruit soldiers. “Are you fucking morons?” shouted the head of the republic, Sergei Melikov, while playing a video from social media showing Derbent town police telling all male residents to leave their homes and report to the local recruiting centre.

For Alina, perseverance paid off. But she said she did not trust local officials to set future rounds of mobilization, if they took place. “Everyone is fighting in this alone,” she said. “No one is coming to help you.”

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