First Mobilized Russians Are Captured in Ukraine and Other Stories From Putin’s Magnificent ‘Partial Mobilization'

Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

The “partial mobilization” of Russian men to fight in Putin’s War in Ukraine is shaping up pretty much the fiasco we thought it would be (see Vladimir Putin to Address Russia; Annexation of Ukraine Provinces and Mobilization Seem to Be on the Table). It is equal parts black comedy, political thriller, and tragedy. But, don’t worry, the comedic and thriller elements will go away very soon.


The war in Ukraine has left Russia facing a military personnel crisis. About 75% of Russia’s regular ground forces participated in the opening act of the Special Military Operation (SMO). These were reinforced by Russian “National Guard” or Rosgvardiya; these are riot police and interior ministry security troops who report directly to Putin (for more on them, read Top General in Putin’s Personal Army Is Arrested by FSB). By late March, Putin decided to call up 100,000 reservists, supposedly all with combat experience, and to bring the Wagner Group mercenaries under military control. Russia Calling 100,000 Reservists to Active Duty and Moving Wagner Group From Syria to Deal With Ukraine Manpower Crunch.

Seven months into the war, Putin had to go back to the mobilization well. By styling his invasion as an SMO rather than a war, he placed all conscript soldiers off limits to combat duty. Under Russian law, contract soldiers can quit any time they wish…like when they’ve been notified they are heading to combat. The front covered by Russian troops is about 600 miles, roughly the distance from Washington, DC, to Atlanta. With the number of troops available, they have been hard-pressed to defend the frontage, constitute a mobile reserve, and rotate units out of the line for rest.

As I’ve mentioned before, Russia’s reserves are not our reserves. If you’ve served in the military, you are a member of the reserves until age 65. There is no regular training required or provided. The plan was to pick men who had needed skills; Defense Minister Shoigu mentioned armored vehicle drivers and riflemen, give them refresher training, and send them to Ukraine as replacements.

I covered the initial reaction to the mobilization order in Putin’s Mobilization Order Isn’t Getting the Reaction He’d Hoped in Russia. Enough information is emerging to give us picture of Russia’s mobilization effort. I apologize in advance for the number of tweets, but video and images are often worth more than words.


The immediate result was that getting a plane ticket out of the country was impossible.

At border crossings, the volume of traffic brought things to a halt.

The privileged, naturally, don’t fight. Even under Putin’s fascism, the notion of “rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight” holds.


In places, men eligible for mobilization must have the permission of the conscription office to leave the country. If you aren’t familiar with Russian media figures, the “war cheerleader” is RT editor-in-chief and frequent television commentator Margarita Simonyan.

There have been sporadic government-sponsored pro-conscription rallies. However, much more common have been riots and resistance.


The situation is particularly tense in Central Asian areas, which seem to have been heavily targeted for conscription.

The demonstrations also underscore the price of sending the OMON and SOBR of the Rosgvardiya off to war.

Even the elites don’t believe things are going well. For example, here is the aforementioned Simonyan commenting on the conscription process on a talk show hosted by regime propagandist Vladimir Solovyov.

For those who lose the lottery, so to speak, what awaits them is grim.

Equipment is barely serviceable, if even available.


Just a note, the condition of these weapons coming out of storage is very similar to that of armored vehicles pulled from storage depots. There is a theme here.

Soldiers are told to buy their own equipment because the government will not provide it.

The leadership is truly inspiring, only the best.

The output is much as you might expect. Shortly after mobilization was announced, Ukraine’s President Zelensky made an address in Russian aimed at conscripts, their friends, and families.


The Ukrainian government also set up a phone number that Russians could call to arrange their safe surrender. But, much to their surprise, they got calls from Russians who’d received a conscription notice but had not yet been inducted into the army.

Instead of getting at least two weeks of training, many are sent immediately to the front. There are reports of Russian troop trains being hit by artillery fire while on the way to their destinations. Mobilized soldiers have already started turning up as prisoners.

While I have no insight into Putin’s strategy, it is clear that time and regime stability are two key factors. Shipping off 300,000 men to almost certain death or captivity in Ukraine will buy him some time. They may be little more than a collection of bollards and speedbumps, but they can fill the gaping holes in some units, and some percentage will turn out to be competent soldiers. To what end is Putin buying time? I can’t hazard a guess. If, as expected, he announces on Friday that he has annexed about a fifth of Ukraine, there is no longer any ground for negotiations that doesn’t involve the deck of the USS Missouri; see Russia’s Friends and Allies Join NATO in Rejecting Russia’s Imminent Annexation of Four Ukrainian Provinces.

Though a lot of us are getting a chuckle out of 20-mile-long traffic jams at border crossings and one-way tickets from Moscow to Bumfuk, Tajikistan costing €9,000, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the regime could stop the mass exodus if it wanted to do so. This flight to avoid mobilization is allowed, I believe, because the men running away are those with education, means, and social standing. Just as our draft riots in the mid-1960s started at elite universities and spread outward, the men absconding to Georgia and Armenia have the potential to form an effective resistance to conscription and endanger the regime. Unfortunately for Russia, most of the men who flee mobilization will be lost forever. The men conscripted are generally poor, poorly educated, powerless, and ethnic minorities. No matter how mad they get, it will never be a threat to Putin’s regime.




Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on RedState Videos