LONDON: Moscow‘s mayor said on Monday that military mobilisation in the Russian capital was now complete while St Petersburg sacked the official in-charge there, the latest sign of problems with the unpopular and chaotic draft for the war in Ukraine.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin thanked Muscovites for their sense of patriotism and told departing soldiers in a blog post: “We will hope and pray that you return alive and healthy.”
He said mustering points in the capital were closing on Monday afternoon and draft papers previously issued to men who had not yet reported for duty would no longer be valid. Opposition activists reacted sceptically on social media.
State-owned news agency RIA reported that St Petersburg Governor Alexander Beglov had sacked the official in charge of the call-up there, but it did not give a reason for his removal.
Moscow and St Petersburg, Russia’s two largest cities, are the traditional centres of the country’s anti-Kremlin opposition, and in recent years have consistently seen the largest anti-Putin and anti-war protests.
President Vladimir Putin announced what he called a “partial mobilisation” on Sept. 21 that would draft 300,000 men into the armed forces, against the backdrop of a cascading series of military defeats in Ukraine.
The decree touched off anger throughout the country, with a string of violent attacks on local draft offices and over 2,000 people arrested for attending anti-mobilisation protests.
Hundreds of thousands of draft-age men have left the country since then, most heading for countries like Georgia, Armenia and Kazakhstan that maintain visa-free regimes for Russians.
Russian authorities have admitted “mistakes”, with older or inexperienced men receiving draft papers in error. Putin said last Friday that the call-up would be over within two weeks and there were no plans for a further mobilisation.
Moscow Mayor Sobyanin has presented himself as a leader in trimming mobilisation excesses, ordering payments to draftees’ families, and for cases of mistaken conscription to be corrected.
However, opposition activists on Monday accused Sobyanin of lying and said men were still at risk of being called up. On Twitter, Maria Pevchikh, an aide to jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, wrote: “Sobyanin has not ended mobilisation. He wrote a blog post. That’s all. Letters on a blog. Don’t be fooled.”





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