A grassroots anti-Putin activist from Petersburg reacts to the mobilization

Thomas Campbell


I have been extremely troubled by arguments that a mobilization in Russia is impossible. People are saying that everyone will run off, nothing will come of it, there is no logistics or anything else. This is all true, of course, but the stated goal of calling up 300 thousand reservists is quite realistic, in my unprofessional opinion.

I really don’t see any earth-shattering problems to it. There are military enlistment offices, there is transport. The uniforms will be fetched from Afghan War-era stockpiles. You know, those sand-colored uniforms, star-embossed belt buckles, and Kirza boots — there is probably a lot more of this stuff in the warehouses. The “mobilizees” will look, however, more like mobs of POWS than like an army, what with all of them wearing different uniforms, some sporting Kirza boots, and some in ankle-high combat boots purchased on the side from a cunning ensign. But still.

I have no doubt that our state will cope with the task of mobilizing men and delivering them to Ukraine. It will be done shabbily — five hundred men will lose fingers to frostbite while traveling in unheated train cars, and fifteen hundred will escape somewhere along the way — but that doesn’t mean that no one will get there.

So, I listened with some bewilderment to arguments that no mobilization would be declared. And now a mobilization has been announced, to the delight of Strelkov.

To make the figures clearer, I should explain that about 400 thousand people live in our district in Petersburg, the Frunzensky District, which means that 600 men should be called up (taking into account the fact that our population is older than the average for Russia). In reality, it will most likely be even fewer, since the powers that be will probably decide to throw residents of the ethnic republics into the furnace again.

Over the past few months, our district authorities have just barely recruited about forty volunteers, since they were unable to use any of the state’s usual enforcement mechanisms. Now they will have all the tools of the military enlistment officer at their disposal.

I’m sorry, but I believe in the success of the mobilization at this stage and that the stated quantities are doable. I don’t believe in the success of Putin’s war. Unmotivated poorly armed cannon fodder is needed in this war, but the benefit from it is not so great, and it will arrive [in Ukraine] only in winter, by the time the front stabilizes somewhere near Henichesk.

It’s not enough to mobilize men. The powers that be still have to somehow mobilize industry. Here I see much less chance of success.

I feel a certain shameful schadenfreude. When I adopted the slogan “Putin = war” as my profile pice in 2014, readers of the Kupchino News made fun of me. The people then were solidly in the “Crimea is ours” camp. Now, for the sake of this selfsame Crimea, a place where, until 2014, Russians could go on holiday with no problems, your brothers and your children will have to go off and die. Not me. I left Russia after police searched my home for a second time and a criminal case was launched against me. When something really could still be done [to oppose the Putin regime] with minimal risks, you were extremely smart to stay at home. Well, now you will be extremely smart in thinking of ways to dodge the draft. What counts is keeping a low profile, isn’t it? The president knows what he’s doing!

However, after this schadenfreude, I immediately feel ashamed. After all, it was I who lost my fight for a Russia free of autocracy, fascism and militarism. By the way, in 2014 I had another profile pic: “Putin = hunger.”

Source: Deputy Volokhonsky (Vladimir Volokhonsky), Telegram, 21 September 2022. Mr. Volokhonsky is a well-known Petersburg grassroots pro-democracy activist and municipal district councilor, currently living in exile in Belgrade. He is also the editor-in-chief of the neighborhood news website Novosti Kupchino (“The Kupchino News”). Translated by the Russian Reader

Anthony Boynton


David Walters

I postulate a few things in reactions to the Petersburgh activist/opiner on yesterday's mobilization order by Putin. Generally I agree with the writer. There is no reason that Putin can't organize what is basically another 100,000 fighters. It will indeed take a while. With 1 month training (supposedly) basically it will appear to be back to WWI/WWII attacks by poorly trained troops who can fire a rifle but not much else, cannon fodder, to overwhelm and demoralize their Ukrainian counterparts. Yes, getting them to near the area, the staging areas IN Russia to the east of the Donbass, will be trying and strain the Russian logistical train. But it can and likely will be done. Getting them to the front, on the other hand, is going to be particularly difficult given the already logistical problems the Russian forces have compounded by the anti-logistical strikes of the Ukrainian HIMAR and artillery corps.


The Ukrainians have effectively used the longer distance HIMARS to ruin the Russians logistics...that is, the are used exclusively to hit food, fuel and ammunition depots. Some have been used to kill in place mobile artillery but mostly it is the depots. They have also been used to smash bridges, highway overpasses, and roads, rather effectively. The longer it takes the Russians to deploy the more risk Putin takes with demoralization of troops as they wait to move, eat and load up ammo, having to hike instead of using infantry fighting vehicles, and so on. But he will do it and, with that, a whole new political situation will emerge, both in Ukraine and in Russia.



IMHO, Putin's call up of Russian reserves indicates a very dire situation in the Russian military. Although the Russian Minister of War says the call up is for about 300,000 reservists, there is no indication that 300,000 will really be added to Russian forces in Ukraine, or how soon any of them will be added. Most important, there are a lot of indications that however many are added, most of them will be resistant to losing their lives in what they see as a morally questionable and losing war. To Russia's battlefield failures, we must also add its failures to recruit volunteers to fight Putin's holy war for mother Russia.

In less than a year, Putin has created a domestic political situation that it took nearly a decade for US imperialism to create in its war against Viet Nam, and almost as long for the Soviet Union in its war against Afghanistan. The lesson Putin and friends seem to have learned from those failed imperialist wars is that stronger police state measures can serve to repress domestic crisis. He should have learned from the history of Czarism's war against Japan and WWI disasters that this is not true. 

In any case, constraints of logistics, organization, training - plus the Ukrainian actions DW outlined - mean that the Russians will not be able to deploy any significant numbers from this call up before the Fall rainy season begins. At the earliest, reinforcements might be deployed for the winter fighting season. ISW sees this more as an effort to prevent a collapse of Russian forces, than a preparation for a new offensive. 

If that conjecture is true, and I think there are strong reasons to believe it is, then Russia's only offensive options will be the use of one or another form of warfare against the civilian population of Ukraine, possibly including the use of WMD.