Russian public opinion divided because of the order of encouragement

While many people in big cities try to go abroad to avoid mobilization, Ilya, who lives in a remote part of Siberia, volunteered to join the army.

When Ilya got home from work earlier this week, his wife was waiting at home, with a call-up letter in hand. Ilya quickly packed up and headed to the recruitment point in Irkutsk, a city on Lake Baikal in Siberia.

“When the country calls, I will answer,” the 27-year-old bus driver said by phone from a training ground near Rostov, a city in the south of Russia. “I decided not to dodge the order of mobilization and will go to defend the country.”

A Russian reserve soldier bids farewell to relatives in Volzhsky, Volgograd region, September 28.  Photo: Reuters

A Russian reserve soldier bids farewell to relatives in Volzhsky, Volgograd region, September 28. Image: Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 21 issued a mobilization order in part to mobilize about 300,000 reservists for the military operation in Ukraine. The mobilization order led many people of military age to try to leave Russia to avoid enlistment.

Satellite images show convoys lining up 16 km long at Russia’s border with neighboring countries. Many wives and mothers bid farewell to their husbands and children to join the army. But there are also people like Ilya who volunteered to join the army, ready to board the car to the training center, in what could be a one-way trip.

Denis Volkov, an expert with the Levada Center, an independent Moscow-based survey company, said the contrasting images show the growing polarization of Russian public opinion about the war in Ukraine.

“The order of mobilization has deepened the division in Russia,” Volkov said. “People living in large, modern cities in the western part of the country want to leave after the mobilization order, but many people have the opposite opinion. They are usually people living in rural areas, with an education level. lower economic conditions, and more dependence on the state”.

Parting tears of a Russian wife on the day her husband enlisted in the army

Men from the Rostov region say goodbye to their loved ones on the day of military service at the Bataysk office. Video: Reuters.

The results of a survey released by the Levada Center on September 28 showed that the percentage of Russians who “fully” or “somewhat” supports the Kremlin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine has decreased since Mr. Putin issued the order to mobilize, but still at 72%.

While some observers doubt the results of the Levada Center poll, Volkov thinks the data is reliable and that Russian thinking is unlikely to change overnight.

He said the main support base of the Russian military is the propaganda effort that Russia is engaged in a larger war with NATO and the US, which is broadcast daily on national television.

In interviews and polls, many Russians believe that the country is under siege by the West and that the Kremlin has no choice but to send troops into Ukraine.

“My husband is fighting not only against Ukraine but also against NATO. We don’t have many allies,” said Lyudmila, Sergi’s wife, who was ordered to join the army earlier this week.

Since Putin issued the order to mobilize, a number of Russian women have set up groups on Telegram, sharing how to stay in touch with husbands, lovers or sons when they join the army. “I’m very proud of my husband. Russia is cornered, we have to fight back,” said Lyudmila, who runs one such group.

But many Russian men are reluctant to go to a recruitment center, believing they can’t dodge the summons, a practice that carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years. “I don’t want war, but I can’t hide, it’s better to face it,” said Igor, a young man in St Petersburg who received a summons on September 28.

Although many Russians continue to support Putin, a Levada Center poll found that 70% of respondents felt “fear” and “shock” at the order of encouragement. President Putin’s approval rating also dropped by 6 points, the highest drop since the war began. About a quarter of Russian men under the age of 24 support continuing the war in Ukraine.

Andrei Kolesnikov, an expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an American think-tank, said the latest Levada Center polls show growing discontent among many Russians about the war in Syria. Ukraine.

Cars one after another leaving Russia

Army recruitment in the city of Yakutsk on September 23. Video: AP

The Russian people’s anxiety about the order to mobilize has also increased after many new recruits reported that the living conditions at the training center were poor. Some people said they had to sleep on the floor because the barracks were so crowded. Some buy their own equipment out of their own pocket, from bulletproof vests to sleeping mats and thermal clothing.

“We spent more than $460, my entire month’s salary, on preparing him for military service,” said Tatyana, a teacher in the city of Chelyabinsk in southwestern Russia.

Her husband received a summons this week. Tatyana said she was shocked that the army did not provide basic things for new recruits. “How can they ask him to go there and fight when things are so messed up?” she said. “The war should stop”.

Hong Hanh (Theo Guardian)

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