‘Popular resentment’: Recruitment offices burn as Russia resists Putin’s Ukraine war draft

Several Russian recruitment offices have been attacked in recent days, as Russians revolt against Putin’s mobilisation. A number of administrative buildings have also been set alight. Protests across Russia have erupted against the move which has been seen as a huge gamble for Vladimir Putin.

According to the independent Russian media organisation Mediazona, there have been at least 17 cases of arson against recruitment centres and administrative buildings since the mobilisation began last week.

Even before the announcement, Russians were setting fire to military offices, likely in protest against the war. With more Russian men being forced to fight in Ukraine, it’s likely the unrest will continue.

US based think tank the Institute for the Study of War said the conditions were ripe to create an “incapable” reserve force.

It said in an update: “Russian partial mobilization efforts are suffering from serious and systemic problems in their first days, generating popular resentment and setting conditions to produce a mobilised reserve force incapable of accomplishing the tasks Russian President Vladimir Putin has set for it.

“Protests, attacks against recruiting centres, and vandalism have occurred across Russia in the first 48 hours after the announcement of partial mobilisation.”

Earlier this week, a military recruitment centre in St Petersburg caught fire while, in a separate incident, an individual reportedly used a Molotov cocktail to start a fire at an enlistment office in Nizhny Novgorod about 273 miles east of Moscow.

The most extreme attack on a recruitment centre occurred yesterday when a man shot a draft officer at point blank range. The officer is said to be fighting for his life.

The gunman was reportedly angry that his friend had been drafted even though he did not have previous military experience. He said “no one is going to fight” before opening fire, according to local Russian media.

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Other videos show police firing automatic weapons into the air in an attempt to control the crowds. The minority ethnic region has a history of resistance against Moscow’s rule and it’s possible tensions there could erupt.

Dagestan, alongside neighbouring Chechnya, have seen strong separatist movements flare up in the past – which were mostly crushed by Moscow during second Chechen war. Putin could be stoking more anti-Russia sentiment there with his mobilisation.

The Russian President seems to have gambled that losing the war in Ukraine is more of threat to his rule than mobilising hundreds of thousands of Russians.

It is now clear, however, how unpopular the mobilisation is among the Russian population, and this is before, as advisor to Ukraine President Zelensky Mykhailo Podolyak puts it, “the coffins begin to return”.