Opposition representatives from five Russian regional councils have sent appeals urging President Vladimir Putin to issue a decree to end the partial military mobilization he announced in September to boost Moscow’s invasion force in Ukraine.
The Defence Ministry announced the end of the call-up of 300,000 reservists on Oct. 31 after weeks of chaos in which hundreds of thousands of Russians fled the country and numerous reports emerged of the wrong men being drafted. The Kremlin said at the time that no formal decree to cancel the mobilization was needed.
Emilia Slabunova, an opposition councillor in Karelia in northern Russia, said the absence of such a decree meant those already drafted could not leave the armed forces.
Commanders refused to discharge them, and appeals against such refusals in court led nowhere, she said. Courts were siding with commanders, citing the fact that Putin’s September mobilization decree still had legal force.
Military lawyers confirmed to Reuters that this had happened in at least two court cases – one near Moscow and one in Chita, in Siberia.
“We, as councillors, represent our constituents and these appeals from us are the result of numerous appeals from citizens,” Slabunova said.
Reuters saw similar appeals from opposition deputies in the Moscow, St. Petersburg, Pskov and Veliky Novgorod regions. All are members of the liberal opposition Yabloko party.
Asking whether the Kremlin was aware of the regional councillors’ initiative, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday it had “already clarified everything” on the topic of mobilization, so there was nothing new to say on the matter.
It is rare, and risky, for elected officials to publicly challenge the Kremlin over the conduct of the war in Ukraine. In the wake of its Feb. 24 invasion, Russia introduced laws setting long prison sentences for “discrediting” the armed forces or spreading “fake news” about them.
The councillors’ appeals said the lack of a decree ending mobilization “creates legal uncertainty”, allows “citizens to continue being drafted into the army” and “allows military commanders to deny citizens their discharge from service”.
“I know of cases where our military enlistment offices are already issuing January and February summonses today,” said Boris Vishnevsky, a councillor from St Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly who also signed an appeal to the Russian president.
He said this was because the “legal lacuna” created by the absence of the decree “opens up opportunities for legal mayhem”.
Reuters could not confirm the cases to which he alluded.
Vishnevsky said he and his colleagues in the other regions were not afraid of reprisals.
“We are the only political force in the country that openly opposes Putin,” he said. “We are trying to do something, so there is still hope.”