Here then, is President Vladimir Putin’s answer to Ukraine’s successful counter-offensive a little under two weeks ago.
He needs more troops on the battlefield fast, to fix the manpower problem at the heart of his “special military operations” so a partial mobilization starts now.
Only 300,000 men, his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says, stressing that the potential reserve force is 25 million.
That is presumably an attempt to assuage the fears of the millions who might be called up and don’t want to be. But those numbers could creep up, 300,000 is not insignificant in and of itself and it is only the Russian Ministry of Defense who’s counting.
Putin orders ‘partial mobilization’ in Ukraine – live updates
The decree also deals a blow to those who volunteered to sign contracts and might be looking to get out of them.
Now those contracts are valid until the end of the period of partial mobilization whenever that might be (ie when all of this ends). Not so voluntary anymore. Dismissal is permitted only for reasons of age, health or imprisonment.
There’s been a lot of reporting around the fact that many of those who signed up for volunteer contracts came from Russia’s poorer regions, attracted by the sums involved and the promise of benefits and housing.
Now it is the Ministry of Defense calling the shots on who they want to pick as long as they’ve done military service, have a particular military specialty and have previous combat experience.
It’s not clear whether the ministry will target reservists geographically in areas less likely to kick up a fuss (ie. not Moscow or St Petersburg), or whether it’ll be a call-up across the board of whoever’s best qualified.
Human rights lawyer Pavel Chikhov, who has been handling a lot of the cases of contractors looking to quit, has written on Telegram he believes the Ministry of Defense will draw up quotas for each region which governors must then fulfill.
Sergei Shoigu made clear that the decree does not apply to students or conscripts currently doing their military service on the territory of the Russian Federation.
A message to the mothers, perhaps, that your 18-year-olds won’t go in to fight.
Or maybe that’s just for now. Come next Tuesday, when polls close in the ‘referenda’ in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia, Russia will presumably declare those regions Russian territory.
What nuclear weapons does Russia have and what damage could they cause?
Is Ukraine getting the upper hand in the arms race with Russia?
Why Ukraine’s southern offensive is more difficult than northern blitzkrieg
That means, in theory, conscripts could be moved there. All as yet unclear.
This is a nervous moment for many in Russia who do not want to fight.
Prices for airplane tickets have sky-rocketed.
It’s probably too late for those on a list to leave – that moment was yesterday. The advice from the human rights group OVD-info on Telegram: “If you want to protest, prepare to be arrested.”