Shocking footage of the struggle captured the man as he attempted to kick himself away from the three officers who were trying to arrest him. He was slammed into a restaurant window before officers were recorded elbowing him in the head. People in the restaurant were stunned into silence during the brutal encounter.
President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s first wartime mobilisation since World War Two on Wednesday, shocking citizens with what Western countries described as an act of desperation in the face of a losing war.
Putin made the announcement in a televised address in which he also announced moves to annex swaths of Ukrainian territory and threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, declaring: “It’s not a bluff”.
Flights out of Russia quickly sold out, and jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny called for mass demonstrations against the mobilisation. Russians said some people were already receiving call-up notices, and police were barring men from leaving one city in the south.
Independent protest monitoring group OVD-Info said more than 1,300 people had been detained in protests by Wednesday evening.
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In a country that counts millions of former conscripts as reservists, Putin’s “partial mobilisation” decree gave no clue as to who would be called up. Defence Secretary Sergei Shoigu said 300,000 people would be mobilised from a pool of 25 million. Contracts of professional troops would be extended indefinitely.
Putin also effectively announced plans to annex four Ukrainian provinces, saying Moscow would assist with referendums on joining Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions to Russia, and implement the results.
Offering no evidence, Putin accused officials in NATO states of threatening to use nuclear weapons against Russia. They should know that “the weathervane can turn towards them”, he said, adding that Russia “also has various means of destruction”.
“When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. It’s not a bluff.”
President Biden, in a speech to world leaders at the UN General Assembly, responded: “Again, just today, President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe, in a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of the non-proliferation regime.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, due to address the UN General Assembly later on Wednesday, said he thought Putin would be unlikely to use nuclear weapons, but that the threat itself showed why it was vital to stand up to him.
“Tomorrow Putin can say: ‘Apart from Ukraine, we also want a part of Poland, otherwise we will use nuclear weapons.’ We cannot make these compromises,” Zelenskiy told Germany’s Bild newspaper.
European Union foreign ministers, in New York for the UN General Assembly, called an emergency meeting for late Wednesday to discuss new sanctions and weapon deliveries for Kyiv after Putin’s order.
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“It’s clear Russia wants to destroy Ukraine,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. “We will not be intimidated.”
Calling a mobilisation is possibly the riskiest domestic political move of Putin’s two decades in power, and follows months of Kremlin promises it would do no such thing.
The war has so far appeared to enjoy popular support in a country where independent media have all been shut down and all public criticism of the “special military operation” is banned.
But for many ordinary Russians, especially in the urban middle classes, the prospect of being sent to fight would be the first hint of the war affecting them personally.