Hundreds Arrested During Protests Over Russian Troop Conscription

An independent rights group said Russia had arrested hundreds of people who protested around the country against the new “partial mobilization” that President Vladimir Putin recently announced.

According to OVD-Info, at least 724 people had been detained across 32 different Russian cities on Saturday alone.

The arrests came after widespread demonstrations broke out across Russia in response to Mr. Putin’s announcement that Russian forces would recruit 300,000 men to fight in Ukraine.

The Russian president’s plans to conscript civilians into the army have sparked large-scale protests in the country’s urban areas, international media said. However, Russian law prohibits unauthorized demonstrations.

Reports from human rights groups claim that over 1,000 people were detained earlier this week.

Some of those arrested on Saturday said Russian authorities had ordered them to report to recruitment centers while in detention.

However, the protesters say they do not want to fight a war and are afraid that the country’s youth would be sent to the front lines.

Moscow has defended the partial mobilization, saying earlier this week that the move was not against the law.

The Russian government has also passed new and harsher punishments against those deemed “derelict” for failing to do their duty once recruited.

On Saturday, Mr. Putin signed new decrees punishing any soldier who tries to desert the army or is caught surrendering with up to 10 years in prison. Those who refuse to fight can also go to jail for a decade.

Another decree signed by the Russian president grants Russian citizenship to any foreign national who signs up for Russian military service and serves in the country’s armed forces for one year.

Previously, foreign citizens had to wait at least five years to obtain Russian residency.

Meanwhile, young Russians continue to flee the country to avoid conscription. Officials at the border with Georgia say queues of Russian cars stretch more than 30 kilometers.

The Interior Ministry urged people not to travel and admitted that at least 2,500 vehicles are waiting at checkpoints to cross into neighboring countries.