PPresident Vladimir Putin looked surprised – although the question came from a representative of his tame state television. At a press meeting in Sochi on Monday evening, he wanted to know from Putin whether the president would publish a decree to end the mobilization. “Yes, no, I think from a legal point of view . . .”, Putin began, spoke of justice, named numbers. In the eight months of the war, nothing has so far worried the Russians as much as mobilization.
Putin announced it on September 21 to alleviate supply problems. So he broke his promise to use only professional soldiers in his “special operation” in Ukraine. This marked the onset of war in the everyday lives of many Russians. Even pro-Kremlin polls show concern. Regions soon announced an end to conscription, which in many cases continued.
The call-ups have now ended, Defense Minister Sergei Schojgu reported to Putin last Friday: The task set at the beginning of calling up 300,000 reservists has been fulfilled, “no additional tasks are planned”. Military replacement offices would only accept “volunteers and contract soldiers” for the “special operation”. Even after Shoigu’s appearance, there were still reports of conscriptions in some places. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained this with a “certain habit” of the military replacement offices.
Putin blames the Ministry of Defense
Skepticism is indicated: Shojgu said on September 21 that the call-up of 300,000 reservists was not a “one-off” action. In addition, in Putin’s decree on “partial mobilization,” a novel construct, a point about figures is secret. Media reported that at least one million people were mentioned. The decree is also formulated in such a way that it could be used for further waves of mobilization.
Putin has now said he will “speak to lawyers” about whether a new decree is needed to “announce that the mobilization is over. But it’s over. The point is set.” On Tuesday, Peskov then emphasized that the Kremlin’s legal department had decided that there was no need for an end decree because the target of 300,000 had been reached.
Putin again shifted the responsibility for the mobilization to the Defense Ministry. His numbers also sounded less threatening than the Shoigus. Putin said that out of 300,000 conscripts, 41,000 are in combat units of the armed forces, the rest, 259,000, are not taking part in combat operations but are being “prepared”. By contrast, Shoygu said on Friday that 82,000 troops had been sent to the battlefield in Ukraine, and on Tuesday increased that number to 87,000 who had received “additional preparation.” The quality of this training is strongly questioned in reports by independent media. At least dozens of recruits enlisted in the mobilization have already fallen.
At the same time, Putin’s power apparatus is preparing to close a criminal liability gap with a view to future mobilizations: So far, reservists who do not follow a call-up can only be sentenced to a small fine under the law – even if many Russians do not know this and fear higher penalties. On Tuesday, Duma deputy Ernest Waleyev announced a new criminal offense with high fines and imprisonment of up to five years if reservists were not called up to the military replacement office. “This is for the future,” Valeyev said. First of all, the mobilization is over.