Protest Against “Partial Mobilization” in Russia

Foreign Policy Brief #150 | By: Yelena Korshunov | October 3, 2022

Russian special forces detained a protester. Header photo taken from:




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A police officer with a placard “Do you want (to be) like me?” seized from a protester.

Photo taken from: Getty Images

Policy Summary

On September 21, Russia’s president Putin announced the start of “partial mobilization” in Russia. He signed a law amending the Criminal Code, according to which the Russian Federation introduces punishment for voluntary surrender and desertion during the period of mobilization and refusal to participate in hostilities. Violators face punishment of up to 10 years in prison for voluntary surrender and up to 15 years in prison for desertion.

Putin announced the draft as Ukraine continues pushing Russian troops back from territory they seized during the war. This month, Ukraine launched a major counter-offensive that resulted in the recapture of thousands of square kilometers of territory. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky offered guaranteed protection to Russian soldiers who voluntarily surrendered. He said that Ukraine could guarantee them safety. According to Zelensky, such Russians will be treated in a civilized manner, the circumstances of their surrender will remain undisclosed, and Ukraine will find a way to ensure that those who do not want to return to Russia are not exchanged.

Immediately after the start of mobilization on September 21, queues arose at the Russian border with Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. There are multiple reports on social networks showing how individuals were forbidden from crossing the border out of Russia. Initially, the military commissars of the regions of the Russian Federation forbade people who were subject to conscription for mobilization to travel outside their city or district, and on September 23, bans on leaving Russia appeared in their orders. 

A source close to the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation told the information agency Meduza that the Russian authorities are going to close the borders for all men of mobilization age “after the referendums” that are held in the self-proclaimed DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic), LPR (Luhansk People’s Republic), and in the partially occupied territories of the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions of Ukraine. They will end on the evening of September 27th.

After Vladimir Putin announced the mobilization, military commissariats and administration buildings were set on fire with renewed vigor throughout the country. During the first six months of a full-scale invasion of Russia, at least 20 military commissariats were set on fire. Now the frequency of such incidents has dramatically increased.

Responding to Putin’s announcement of “partial mobilization”, a new wave of protests takes place in many Russian cities. The actions were violently dispersed, and many of their participants were detained.

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Russian special forces detained a protester.

Photo taken from:


Russian police and special forces detained protesters.

Photo taken from: Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

Protest in Makhachkala.

Photo taken from: Ukrainska Pravda

On September 25, residents of Dagestan, a subdivision of Russia, held several protests against the mobilization, and the largest was in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan. Around 3pm that day local residents, mostly women, began to gather in the city center, near the Puppet Theater. Calls to come to the rally were published by the Morning Dagestan telegram (social media) channel, to which a little more than 30,000 people had subscribed before the start of the rally.

The Dagestan informal newschannel Chernovik reported that “mothers with children, representatives of the adult generation, and youth gathered.” In total, several hundred people participated in the protests in Makhachkala, judging by the video of eyewitnesses. The protesters, in particular, chanted “No war!”, “No mobilization!” and “Our children are not fertilizer!”

Policy Analysis

Day by day, reality is becoming more cruel for the people of Russia. According to Ukraine, about 55,000 Russian soldiers have died in Putin’s war in Ukraine, and this number is growing every day. Only a small number of brave people dare to take part in the protests, which are brutally suppressed by police and special forces. 

The arbitrariness of power, violence, and cruelty have turned the majority of the nation into obedient slaves, frightened and silent, or blindly supporting their leader. The unlimited permissiveness and absolute power of Russia’s president have led to a war in which more and more Russians will ingloriously and uselessly die unless they find the courage to resist Putin’s dictatorship.

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