We hereby share a report made on September 22 by our colleague Andrei Nestruev, whom we interviewed in March when he was arrested in St. Petersburg for demonstrating against the invasion. His testimony is framed by the measures adopted by Putin in the face of the military failures in Ukraine, which include: the mobilization of 300,000 reservists, the usurpation of territories through illegitimate referendums and the threat to use nuclear weapons. Faced with this reality, demonstrations once again took to the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities, actions to which the authoritarian regime responded with repression and hundreds of imprisonments. The cry “No to war” is increasing with great intensity. This testimony we publish below is added to the one already made from Ukraine in the article “Triumphant resistance in the region of Kharkiv”.
“Situation in Russia: Putin announced mobilization”.
“The September counteroffensive of the Ukrainian Armed Forces created a threat for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Kharkiv region was liberated. Russian troops left for the Donetsk region to “regroup”, as the official propaganda says. In this war, Putin has staked everything he has: he replaced his autocracy with a dictatorship, completely destroyed the opposition, cut ties with the West and condemned the country to economic decline. Only success in this war will be able to maintain his authority in the eyes of supporters among Russians and, more importantly, in the eyes of the Russian political elite. This is the main goal of the war: to stay in power. Therefore, mobilization is a logical step in his policy. Putin will go all the way in this war.
A few weeks ago, a video appeared on the Internet where Putin’s friend, Mr. Prigozhin appears to be in a prison recruiting prisoners to go to the front lines in exchange for a pardon combined with a threat of being shot for surrendering or fleeing (at the same time, death penalty is forbidden in Russia).
There was also information on the Internet that young Russian soldiers were being sent for an assault, while Chechen President Kadyrov’s soldiers followed them from behind and shot everyone who retreated. For Russia’s elite there are no laws anymore, and people are their slaves. Propaganda and Putin himself called this mobilization “partial”, but society understands that they will be blind and wholesale: whoever they find they will take them away.
A few days before the adoption of the mobilization law, preparations were made for: 1- The adoption of reforms to the criminal code. Articles and penalties relating to the war were adopted (desertion, disobedience to orders, surrender, etc.) and 2- The accelerated preparation of Referendums for accession to Russia in the occupied territories. The second point will allow them to tell the people of Russia that “we are now defending our own territories”. This is very important, because the state propaganda for many years created the myth that “Russia has never attacked anyone”. In addition, this article will make it possible to attract recruits to the “Russian territories” (18-20 year old boys who have just started training).
The people received the mobilization with alarm. Those who previously thought that the war would not touch them were frightened. But most of the opposition left Russia in the first months of the war. Therefore, demonstrations against the mobilization were few and brutally repressed (about 300 people came out in Moscow). Now Russians are intimidated and feel there’s no help from Europe (11 countries have refused to grant visas to Russians). People are afraid of violence in the country and do not know where to turn. The situation is very difficult.
Men arrested at rallies receive summonses to be sent to the front the next day. The Russian opposition is fragmented. For example, Navalny’s supporters in their speech yesterday endorsed drastic actions, such as setting fire to military rally points. But it is too late, because all those who could have done this have left or are in prison. The protest had to be radicalized earlier, before the declaration of war (I personally remember that at Navalny’s rallies, if you went out into the roadway or called to resist the police, you were called a provocateur and they tried to extradite the police). The liberal approach to the rallies failed.
Now there are radical activists and groups that are trying to directly resist the war: they damage rail lines to military units and warehouses, stop trains with military equipment and set fire to military assembly points. Their struggle is important and real, but still small in numbers.”