War in Ukraine: Hundreds arrested in Russian protests as civilians receive call-up orders
Hundreds of people have been arrested after protests broke out across Russia as Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilisation” of the country to fight the war in Ukraine.
Civilians began to receive call-up papers late on Wednesday evening. The Kremlin had said only people with previous military experience would be told to serve. However, some stories have already began to emerge of men without any military background who have been called up.
A human rights organisation has warned some people who have been arrested are immediately being handed call-up papers to fight in the military.
A total of 300,000 reservists will be mobilised, Russian authorities said on Wednesday.
Social media showed queues of people reportedly trying to leave Russia by car, while the price of flights out of the country rocketed. Other videos depicted the first conscripts saying goodbye to their families as they boarded coaches to training camps.
Aeroflot routes to the Turkish city of Istanbul quickly sold out, as did journeys to the Armenian capital of Yerevan – both countries that still allow Russians to enter without a visa. Google searches for "how to leave Russia" were also at a high.
Russian human rights group OVD-Info said the total number of people held following the protests was more than 1,300, with most of them taking part in protests in St Petersburg and Moscow.
Russian authorities have said students will not be asked to serve, while people working in some sectors, such as some financial services positions, would also be exempt.
All male citizens aged 18 to 27 in Russia have to serve a year of compulsory military service, unless they are exempt on medical or other grounds. It is understood those aged under 30 could be sent to fight immediately due to their recent military experience, without extra training.
One woman, journalist Yanina Nimaeva, said in a video on her Telegram channel that her husband, who works in the emergency department of the city hospital, had been called up and his transport to a training camp already booked. The couple and their five children live in the Russian republic of Buryatia in Siberia.
She said: “My husband is 38 years old. He is not in the reserve, he did not serve. He works in our valiant city emergency department.”
She added: “I understand that we have plans. Our republic needs to gather 4,000 soldiers. But some parameters and principles of this partial mobilisation must be respected.”
OVD-Info said at least 541 people had been detained in St Petersburg alone. It reported that in Moscow, where 509 people had been arrested, one woman had been beaten unconscious, while some of those who had been detained were being directly conscripted to the military.
"Information was received from four police departments that the detainees were handed summons to the military registration and enlistment office,” the organisation said.
This comes as Ukraine has announced a high-profile prisoner swap after months of efforts to free many of the fighters who defended a steel plant in Mariupol during a long Russian siege. Five British men are among the 215 people held by Russia who have been released.
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