A man upset at being conscripted into Russia’s war on Ukraine opened fire at a recruiting office in Irkutsk on Monday, gunning down a recruiter at point-blank range.
Another man hurled firebombs at an enlistment office in Uryupinsk, making it the latest of 20 such offices to be set ablaze since Russian leader Vladimir Putin announced nationwide mobilization to support the flagging war effort.
According to a video he posted to social media, the Irkutsk gunman was 25-year-old Ruslan Zinin. He was detained by police, while the recruiter he shot was hospitalized in critical condition. Irkutsk regional governor Ibor Kobzev vowed Zinin “will absolutely be punished” for his actions.
Germany’s Der Spiegel on Monday described Zinin as a “reservist who was to be drafted into military service in Ukraine.” His was the most violent protest to date against Putin’s mobilization order, but there have been many others, ranging from vandalism to fiery protest marches.
Hundreds of people blocked a road in the town of Endirei, Dagestan, on Sunday to protest conscription, while a spontaneous anti-war rally broke out in the provincial capital of Makhachkala.
Dagestan’s protests were especially vigorous because the largely Muslim residents believe, with considerable evidence, they are disproportionately tapped to fight and die in Ukraine. The BBC studied casualty figures recently and found at least 301 soldiers from Dagestan have died in the war so far, over ten times the casualties from Moscow.
In the town of Uryupinsk, near Volgograd, a man drove up to a recruiting office and pelted it with Molotov cocktails, creating an impressive blaze but causing little serious damage, according to the authorities.
The bomber, allegedly a 35-year-old “Russian nationalist” named Mikhail Filatov, evidently thought he could destroy the paper records necessary to process military conscription:
Other recruiting offices were firebombed over the weekend in the towns of Ruzaevka and Gatchina.
Thousands of military-age men have reportedly fled the country to avoid conscription. Der Spiegel noted panic is spreading as researchers say the Kremlin is “secretly aiming for a million recruits,” rather than the 300,000 officially announced.
In a video address delivered partially in Russian on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky advised Russians to resist conscription and promised that Russian soldiers will be treated well if they surrender.
“It is better not to take a conscription letter than to die in a foreign land as a war criminal. It is better to run away from criminal mobilization than to be crippled and then bear responsibility in the court for participating in the war of aggression. It is better to surrender to Ukrainian captivity than to be killed by the strikes of our weapons, absolutely fair strikes, as Ukraine defends itself in this war,” Zelensky said.
“Ukraine guarantees every Russian soldier who surrenders three things. First, you will be treated in a civilized manner, in accordance with all conventions. Second, no one will know the circumstances of your surrender, no one in Russia will know that your surrender was voluntary. And third, if you are afraid to return to Russia and do not want an exchange, we will find a way to ensure this as well,” he said.