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Russians Protest Putin’s Conscription

The Kremlin’s plan to mobilize hundreds of thousands of forces is facing growing resistance.

By , a reporter at Foreign Policy.
Police officers detain demonstrators in S. Petersburg, Russia.
Police officers detain demonstrators in S. Petersburg, Russia.
Police officers detain demonstrators in S. Petersburg, Russia, on Sept. 21, following calls to protest against partial mobilization, announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin. OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Russia’s domestic upheaval, North Korea’s ballistic missile launch, the plunging British pound, and the world this week. 

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Putin’s Mobilization Order Fuels Unrest

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Russia’s domestic upheaval, North Korea’s ballistic missile launch, the plunging British pound, and the world this week. 

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Putin’s Mobilization Order Fuels Unrest

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to send 300,000 more men off to war is facing growing domestic resistance, as defiant protests erupt across cities and tens of thousands of people rush to escape conscription by fleeing the country.

More than 2,000 people have now been arrested for participating in sweeping demonstrations, an outpouring of frustration that underscores the public’s anger with the decision—and the risks they are willing to take to avoid being deployed. Across the country, protesters chanted, “Send Putin to the trenches!” and “No to war!”

Others have scrambled to flee Russia in a mass exodus that has sold out airline tickets and created chaos at the borders. Hourslong lines have formed to enter Mongolia, Finland, Georgia, and Kazakhstan, although Russia’s European Union neighborsFinland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia—have decided to shut their doors to fleeing citizens. 

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pledged to abide by international rules when dealing with deserting Russian soldiers while also urging them to defy Putin’s call for conscription. 

“It is better not to take a conscription letter than to die in a foreign land as a war criminal,” he said. “It is better to run away from criminal mobilization than to be crippled and then bear responsibility in the court for participating in the war of aggression.”

But mobilization is already in high gear in places like Buryatia—a Russian republic in Siberia near the Mongolian border with a large ethnic minority population, where schools are already being converted into conscription centers and military recruiters are visiting homes, FP’s Amy Mackinnon reported.

“The intensity of the recruitment drive in Buryatia has further fueled suspicions that ethnic minorities are being sent to fight and die in Ukraine at disproportionate rates,” she wrote

Further compounding public discontent is the governments dysfunctional execution of Putins decree, with reports of enlistment papers being sent to men without past military experience or others who were not supposed to be summoned under the original order.

As protests mount, Putin ramped up the cost of dissent, implementing new laws that punish those who desert, surrender, or resist fighting with a potential 10-year sentence. He has also offered citizenship to foreigners who enlist as well as attempted to recruit Ukrainians in Russian-occupied territories.


The World This Week

Monday, Sept. 26: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visits Japan and South Korea until Sept. 29. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meets NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Tuesday, Sept. 27: The state funeral ceremony for late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is held. 

Wednesday, Sept. 28: The United Nations Security Council discusses Israel and Palestine.

Thursday, Sept. 29: Kuwait holds its general election. 

Friday, Sept. 30: European Union energy ministers hold an extraordinary meeting.


What We’re Following Today

North Korea’s missile launch. North Korea test-fired a short-range ballistic missile on Sunday, South Korean officials said, right before U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris began her trip to Japan and South Korea. South Korea’s military said the act was a “grave provocation,” whereas the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said it was not an “immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies.”

“The missile launch highlights the destabilizing impact of [North Korea’s] unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs,” it added in the statement

Ethiopia’s war. Doctors in Ethiopia’s Tigray region have warned that they are facing acute insulin shortages and have only days worth of supply left, as the brutal war between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front takes a mounting human toll. Throughout the conflict, government forces have slashed the flow of humanitarian supplies into the region. 

Andrew Boulton, the head of the International Diabetes Federation, called it a “humanitarian crime.” “Even at times of war, there are agreements that essential medications should get through to the population,” Boulton told the Guardian. “And this appears not to be occurring at the moment, in the best evidence that I have.”

The plunging pound. Over the weekend, the British pound fell to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar since the currency moved to a decimal system in 1971. The exchange rate plummeted, approaching $1.03 per pound during early trading on Asian markets and recovered slightly to $1.07 on Monday morning.

The pound has been in freefall since U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng announced a package of major tax cuts and other budget outlays requiring up to 70 billion pounds in borrowing. (That figure was worth approximately $79.5 billion last Thursday; at one point on Monday morning, its value had fallen to $72.5 billion.)


FP Live 

Pakistan has been plagued by economic crisis, political unrest, and now catastrophic and deadly flooding. The country’s foreign minister is on FP Live on Tuesday, Sept. 27. Register to watch the interview live and get your questions answered.


Keep an Eye On 

Iran cracks down. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has threatened to “deal decisively with those who oppose the country’s security and tranquility,” as demonstrators continue protesting 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s death while in custody. The demonstrations have now gone on for 10 days, and at least 41 people have died, state media said.

Pakistan’s flood disaster. The World Bank has committed $2 billion in aid to Pakistan as it grapples with extreme flooding that has killed at least 1,600 people, displaced nearly 8 million more, and fueled fears of spreading waterborne diseases. The sum marks the biggest aid package for Pakistan in connection with the floods so far. 


This Weekends Most Read

Russia’s Sending Its Ethnic Minorities to the Meat Grinder by Amy Mackinnon

What Russia’s Elites Think of Putin Now by Tatiana Stanovaya

How Should the West Respond to Putin’s Military Mobilization? by Emma Ashford and Matthew Kroenig


Odds and Ends 

After meandering into a Massachusetts town’s pond, a gray seal named Shoebert skillfully eluded wildlife officials’ and firefighters’ efforts to catch him until they gave up the chase. But he appeared to have a change of heart the next day, when authorities found him waiting outside the town’s police station.

“Shoebert appeared to be in good health and was a little sassy in the early morning hours,” the Beverly Police Department said in a Facebook post while noting that he was sent to an aquarium for observation before his ultimate release.

“Over the past week you brought a lot of joy and happiness to our city,” it added. “Feel free to come back and visit anytime!”

Christina Lu is a reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @christinafei

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