"It's like the war has started again." What do Russians living in Georgia think about mobilization?
Russians living in Georgia on mobilization
On the morning of September 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization.” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that about 300,000 reservists would be called up for the “special operation” (still not officially called a war) in Ukraine.
In the first stage, men aged 18-35 will be called, then 35-45 years old, and so on. Russian media write that Russian youth have already begun to receive summons for military service en masse. There is panic among the populace. Protests have begun in Russian cities, and yesterday more than 570 were arrested at protests in thirty cities. People are fleeing from Russia en masse. A few minutes after Putin’s statement, flight tickets to Istanbul, Tbilisi, Yerevan, Baku and other cities and countries where Russians do not need a visa disappeared.
JAMnews spoke to Russian citizens in Georgia about their thoughts on mobilization and its consequences.
Sergey, 27 years old
Emotionally I am in exactly the same state as on February 24th. I feel the same fear. Everyone I talk to in Russia feels the same way – as if the war had started again. Many of my friends will be mobilized. We woke up into a nightmare.
I am a lawyer by profession. I arrived in Tbilisi in March and have been working online with Russian clients since then. Now I help everyone for free as much as I can. They call me from Russia and ask: “How can we get out of war? How do we leave the country? Which country should we run to?” Even police officers call me.
Until today people got into the war either through propaganda or they were given money. They either believed that what they were doing was the right thing, or were paid. Now they will come for men by force.
But I still don’t think this is the final wake-up call. I have no hope that people will take to the streets. The propaganda is already out there convincing people that even this will be “partial”, that non-reservists will not be drafted.
We are talking about 300,000 men. This is only one percent of the population, which means that this can be contained among a smaller segment of the population and not personally affect everyone.
Officially I am not a deserter yet, because the summons did not come to me. If they call me and I don’t go, then I become a deserter.
Now people are looking for any way to escape the country. They will try to leave for Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia, where a foreign passport is not needed. Those who have a passport will come to Georgia. Since Lithuania [and the other Baltic states, as well as Poland] no longer issue visas at all, it will be difficult to travel to Europe. Many will go to a Russian village and hide out there.
It’s probably worse now than before. We didn’t know then what would happen. Now everything is clear. We all know what the government of the Russian Federation is doing. We now know that more blood will be shed.
Dmitry, 24 years old
Tomorrow I’m going from Moscow to Georgia via Lars. I didn’t even dream about plane tickets, everything is sold out. It seems like a dream that I have to run away from home. I should have left earlier, but it isn’t so easy – I have a new job, a girl who can’t leave her parents.
I am of draft age, served in the army, which means that mobilization concerns me first of all. I have not received the order yet, however.
I’m going to Lars by minibus. The driver tells me he’s bringing another reservist. If asked, I have to tell them that my relative is undergoing an operation in Tbilisi, that my presence is necessary and that I will be back in two weeks.
I don’t even want to think about what to do if they don’t let me through the border.
I’m not going to this war. I have a few options – I will commit some petty hooliganism and they will put me in jail for a year. I’ve already thought about what I’m going to do. A relative has a store, and I will “steal” something there. He will call the police.
Another option is to break an arm or a leg. My father came up with another idea he heard from someone: “If you know a surgeon, he can operate on you. For example, appendicitis.”
I don’t know what to do in Georgia. I have a Georgian surname and Russian citizenship. My father is Georgian, my mother is Russian. I don’t even know enough Georgian to get a job here. But anything other than war. I can’t shoot anyone and I don’t want to be shot at. I don’t consider myself a deserter. I don’t undertand this war at all.
Valery, 24 years old
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to help those who are stuck there and now want to escape. Everyone around me is in shock.
Until now, propaganda has convinced people that this war is not about them. Then the war knocked on everyone’s door. Now our friends, relatives and family members will go to war. They don’t want to kill people, they don’t want to die either. They don’t know what to do. They ask me what to do? I have no answer. Just get out.
Going to a protest is one solution. People who went to the action were immediately arrested and put in jail. Going to jail is definitely better than going to war. I recommend this to my friends.
Even if mass demonstrations don’t happen, there will certainly be mass sabotage. Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, of course, nothing will change, but this regime is over. Putin destroyed himself with this decision.
The three of us rent an apartment in Tbilisi. We can accommodate one more person – now we are waiting for him. The main thing is to get here.
Now another big wave of emigration will come to Georgia, if, of course, they are allowed to enter.
I will return only if the regime in Russia is completely destroyed. However, I may not be returning. I don’t know how to plan for the future at all. I have no idea what will happen tomorrow and where I will wake up. The horizon of our plans changes every day.
Alexander Korovin, 37 years old
I spend the whole day talking on the phone, watching the news, talking to lawyers and trying to help my loved ones. I feel horrible. Most of my friends are between 18 and 35 years old, so they will be taken first.
Everyone I spoke to was shocked. They are looking for different ways to manage. Some are trying to leave Russia. Some think it’s too late to leave and plan to go to jail. Some say they will go, but they won’t shoot. None of my friends want to kill people. They don’t have enemies. They don’t understand why they have to kill or have to die themselves.
My sister got married on Sunday. Of course, I didn’t attend the wedding. Today my son-in-law is one of the first on the mobilization list. I’ve been calling all day and they don’t answer. Probably very nervous. However, even if they answer me I don’t know how I can help. The only thing I can do is help people find a home in Georgia, but getting here is very difficult.
One friend is already on his way, he is going through Lars. Now we need to come up with a good story to get him released. They won’t let anyone out that easily.
First, as many women as possible should come to the protests. It is expected that the men who go to protests will be the first to be mobilized and brought directly to the war.
Some think this is the last chance, others do not believe that anything will change. 300,000 young, healthy people go to war. This is the destruction of a nation.
When I got here March, I was sure that I would go back soon. Now I’m not going back. I will not return to this regime.
Anastasia, 33 years old
I arrived this morning. I took the last free train from Yerevan. In fact I was sitting on an empty train. There were only a few Russian men. They told me that they were afraid of mobilization and were running away. I was glad that they were allowed to cross the border without any problems. I didn’t realize then that they were the last to get out.
Until last Saturday, I tried to fight and not leave my country. But recently I realized that mobilization would be announced soon. I have been depressed for a long time. I realized that this would not end soon, and left.
I went to Armenia for two weeks, then to Georgia. I left my six year old son with my parents. I thought, I’ll see where I prefer to live, I’ll return home, I’ll think about how to plan everything and leave with the child.
Today when I woke up and saw the news, it was all over. I can’t go back. The main thing is to get my son here. I have a total of $115 left of the money I took with me, and now I have no idea where to live, how to get money from the bank, what to do in general.
I told my friends that they should leave, that this was their last chance. Someone had a job, someone was worried about the family and stayed. Now I’m afraid they won’t be able to leave. The borders will be closed and no one will be released.
Today disability is the only real solution to not killing people. You must forge a document that you are disabled.
I love my country and tried to change things in some way. Now I understand that neither elections nor any other efforts will work.
I spent the whole day talking with my friends and suggesting options on how to get them out of it. I don’t even know what’s going to happen tonight.
For many years I thought that we were already on the verge – and people would wake up; but now I don’t think anything will change. Protesters will be arrested and sent to war first.
Daniil Burmaka, 22 years old
After February 24, life in Russia changed dramatically for the worse. I still tried to get my degree. I was in my fourth year, I had only a few months left.
In July, as soon as I received my diploma, I left. I have many relatives in Ukraine. I am very attached to this country. I didn’t know what to do.
I have been talking about this the whole time. I even changed the minds of some people who supported the war. Not many, of course, but at least a few.
A person who does not agree with the war should not go to war just because the dictator said so. And we must do everything to help them.
If I had not left in July, I would have had to go to war or find a way to avoid this catastrophe. Now I am not considered an official deserter, because I personally did not receive a summons.
Friends are still in shock. They fight with each other, they are in a panic. Many Russian citizens do not have the financial means to leave the country and go elsewhere. Diability is the only real option. One popular tactic is to hide with relatives and friends.
The Russians are very, very scared. I would like to hope for a big Russian protest, but I do not really believe in it.
Russians living in Georgia on mobilization