In late September, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of new Russian troops to be drafted into the country’s invasion of Ukraine. This announcement meant that 300,000 Russians between the ages of 18-60 with prior combat experience were going to be drafted into the war effort.
This is the first time since World War II that any government in Russia has announced an emergency draft of troops. The mobilization has thus far been chaotic and disorganized, with reports of soldiers not being provided adequate equipment and a lack of clarity about who is even eligible to be drafted.
After the announcement, there were demonstrations in at least 43 cities, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that track political arrests in Russia stated that at least 2,400 people had been detained by September 26 in protests against the draft. There have also been reports of military recruitment centers being attacked by protesters aimed at sabotaging the war effort.
There have been particularly notable protests that have broken out in parts of Russia inhabited by oppressed ethnic minorities. This is because it is clear the Russian government is trying to conscript soldiers from the poorest and non-ethnic-Russian areas of the nation.
For example, Dagestan and Chechnya are two areas that have seen large protests. Both are poor regions of Russia that are majority Muslim and feature populations with many different languages and ethnicities. Many of these regions were forcibly integrated into the Russian empire and the modern Russian state, with various separatist attempts having been put down violently by the Russian government, such as the Russian invasion of Chechnya in the early 2000s. This policy of recruiting from marginalized sections of society for war efforts is something that is seen all over the world by capitalist governments, just as poor people of color are targeted by military recruiters or forced into the military in the United States due to poverty in what is referred to as the de facto “economic draft.”
In addition to these protests, there has been a mass exodus of people fleeing the draft. At least 200,000 Russians, mostly young men and their families, have fled the country as chaotic scenes have emerged at the Russian border with neighboring countries such as Georgia and Kazakhstan.
These protests have put some pressure on Putin and sections of the ruling class in Russia that support the war, as it is clear that sections of the population have their limits in terms of going along with this invasion. However, it is unclear whether these protests can play a decisive role in sabotaging the war effort. One thing is clear, however – workers all around the world have no interest in fighting wars for the bosses and their governments, and it will be their resistance and determination internationally to build a totally new society, free from capitalist war and domination, that will end conflicts like these once and for all.