Ihe Roman Viktyuk Theater in north-eastern Moscow was originally supposed to show Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov’s allegory of life under Stalinism. The program that is posted at the bus stop in front of the theater points this out. All performances have been canceled until next Thursday. Shortly after President Vladimir Putin announced “partial mobilization” on September 21, a “conscription point” was set up in the theater founded by director Roman Viktjuk (1936-2020), who came from Lviv and a Ukrainian family. Many recruits and their relatives photographed a banner on the facade advertising a premiere of Gogol’s Dead Souls; it was taken down.
Muscovites who have received draft notices advance. In the morning some of them are waiting in the autumn sun. A bearded man is drinking a last beer, holding the can in one hand and his wife in the other, with the packed army rucksack standing next to him. A young woman tells someone on the phone how she bought “everything” for her husband, including medicine. A father and his son have not brought anything with them, they walk side by side to the entrance. After a short wait, the son disappears into the theater. The father stays outside, lights a cigarette. His son received his draft notice yesterday, “at work,” he reports. He doesn’t know where he will be taken.
The son is ready to be drafted, “a man must always be ready”. The old man is leaning on a barrier and dragging on his cigarette. One thing is strange, he adds after a pause: his son is 38, did military service twenty years ago, nothing else. “You said people like him would only be called up until they were 35.” The conversation ends when a police officer comes over, checks their passport and accreditation and demands that they leave the premises: the theater is now a “secured facility”.
For a few days there have been reports from Moscow and Saint Petersburg about “driven hunts”: draft notices have been distributed in companies, shelters for the homeless or in front of subway stations. Images of police officers stopping young people are circulating on Telegram. Some would be driven away in the police car. Police officers also accompany some men to the draft point in the Roman Viktyuk Theater. Station names are mentioned on social media as a warning. Moscow’s military commissioner rejected the reports. In contrast, a member of Putin’s Human Rights Council said a telecommunications company had complained to him about a “battering of objectors” at a Moscow subway station: an employee was detained and asked to prove that he had a “reservation”. This is what exceptions are called, which employees of systemically important companies and institutions should be able to benefit from. One House of Lords called for the “legitimacy” of each individual case to be examined.
Without preparation to the front
Further reports testify to chaos and displeasure. According to a member of the House of Commons, 700 recruits have now been sent home from a training center in the Sverdlovsk region in the Urals: 300 were unjustly conscripted and 400 fell ill. Four recruits had died, the causes of death given being seizures, suicide, cirrhosis of the liver and heart problems.
On Friday, Putin will also be asked about the mobilization. “This work is already coming to an end,” he says, “I think in about two weeks.” 222,000 Russians were drafted, 16,000 already in units that fulfilled “military tasks”, says Putin and reiterates what he announced about the mobilization speech: the recruits would complete a “preparation”. But there are doubts about that. Since the beginning of the week, the first reports of “mobilized” people who have already fallen in Ukraine have been circulating. At least nine are from the Urals; five of them were drafted near Chelyabinsk at the end of September and died at the end of last week. The men were sent to the front without any preparation, relatives told the BBC.
The first “mobilized” from Moscow whose death became known is 28-year-old Alexey Martynov. A post on Telegram introduces him as a department head in the city administration. “Friend and colleague of my close friends. Mobilized on September 23,” it said. Martynov served “in his youth” in a guard of honor regiment. “Zero combat experience. Was sent to the front practically after a few days. Fell heroically on October 10th. Military leaders, now is not the time to lie. You’re not supposed to lie anyway, now it’s a crime.”
The author of the post, Natalia Losyeva, as deputy editor-in-chief of the state media holding “Rosiya Sevodnya”, is a colleague of Kremlin speakers Dmitry Kiselyov and Margarita Simonyan. “An employee of the very propaganda holding company that made this war possible with her many years of lies is now amazed at ‘how it could have happened’,” comments Dmitry Kolesyev of the independent online magazine “Republic” on Telegram. “News of fallen mobilizers is still shocking. Unfortunately, one has to assume that it will soon be such a wave that individual tragedies will be lost in the general flood of horror.”
#Russias #war #battues #holdouts
Leave a Reply