LONDON (Reuters) – Recruiters visited the home of Alexander Bezdrozny a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a partial mobilization order to build up Russian forces fighting in Ukraine. What they had in their hands was a call-up warrant ordering them to appear for military service.
However, Mr. Bezdrozny himself was already dead.
Bezdrozhny, who had chronic pneumonia, died at the age of 40 while still connected to a ventilator at a hospital in Lan-Ude, a city just north of Mongolia, in December 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic was raging. His sister, Natalia Semyonova, spoke to Reuters.
“It’s painful that the country finally remembered my brother after he died.”
Semyonova, a professional musician and Ulan-Ude human rights activist, describes the summons sent to her late brother.
“My brother was exempt from military service and had never served in the military.”
Ulan-Ude is located in the Russian Far East, Buryatia, a rural area surrounding the southern shore of Lake Baikal. Statements from local residents, human rights activists and even local officials have revealed that some men have been called up for the mobilization order here, regardless of age, military or medical history.
Human rights activists in Buryatia see the burden of the mobilization order and the war itself disproportionately being pushed on poorer areas where ethnic minorities live. This is to avoid provoking public anger in the capital, Moscow, 6,000 kilometers away.
In addition to the Slavic majority, Russia has been inhabited by hundreds of ethnic groups over the centuries, and President Putin has always said that Russia is a multi-ethnic country and that soldiers fighting for Russia from all ethnicities Emphasize that everyone is a hero.
Shortly after Putin issued a partial mobilization order on the 21st, Defense Minister Shoigu said that this mobilization order is not for all civilians, but only reserves who have served in the military in the past and have combat experience and special military skills. expressed that.
But the backlash against the mobilization was so strong in Buryatia that Alexei Tsydenov, the emir of the republic, issued a statement on Monday confirming that those who had no military experience or who were exempted for health reasons would not be called up. I put it out. But Tsydenov also acknowledged that there were cases in which summons were issued to non-targets.
“Since this morning, 70 non-targets who have been called up have returned to their homes from assembly points and military units,” Tsydenov told Telegram. If there is an error in the call-up warrant, he added, “just report it to the person in charge at the recruiting office at the meeting place, along with supporting documents.”
The military conscription authority in Ulan-Ude and the Defense Ministry in Moscow did not respond to requests for comment on the situation.
“Conscription in Buryatia is not partial. do.
The Free Buryatia Fund has received hundreds of requests for help from residents whose relatives received convocation warrants. Garmatsapova said many were over the age of 40 and had health problems that should exempt them from conscription.
Garmatsapova estimates that summons were sent to 4,000 to 5,000 residents on the first night of partial mobilization in the area. In many cases, he said, officials served the summons in the middle of the night.
The independent news site Rudi Baikala (People of Lake Baikal) estimates that 6,000 to 7,000 of Buryatia’s population of 978,000 will be mobilized.
Olongoy village in the Republic of Buryatia has a population of 1,700 as of 2010. A resident told Reuters on condition of anonymity that 106 men had been drafted from the village.
Reuters was unable to confirm the actual number of people called in the village or the wider area.
About one-third of Buryatia’s population is of ethnic Mongolian Buryatism, who are predominantly Buddhist. Garmatsapova said the large-scale mobilization here was a political choice by local authorities to please the central government.
“The core of the Russian Federation is not going to touch St. Petersburg or Moscow. Conscription in Moscow could lead to protests against the central government.”
According to open data on war casualties compiled by the Russian investigative website iStories, 259 soldiers from Buryatia and North Caucasian-Dagestan have each died since the invasion of Ukraine began on February 24. and 277, the highest casualty rate. Both republics are poorer than the Russian Federation as a whole and have large non-Russian populations.
Only 10 soldiers from Moscow died.
About 6,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the start of the war, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday, without giving a regional breakdown of the death toll.
Garmatsapova said some residents of Buryatia tried to flee across the border into neighboring Mongolia. Russian citizens can stay in Mongolia for 30 days without a visa. Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of a video posted on social media on Wednesday of long queues of people waiting to leave the country at a remote border checkpoint.
Some are betting on avoiding conscription at home.
Ulan-Ude student Nastya, 21, showed Reuters an image of her father’s call-up letter that arrived on Thursday. The journalist’s father, 45, had never served in the military because of his nearsightedness.
Nastya’s mother has already passed away, and now she has a father and a daughter. The father and daughter decided to ignore the summons. Although he risks being fined, he has also contracted a lawyer to win draft exemption.
“I decided to take the risk. I don’t want to lose my father,” Nascha said.