(1 October). As the conflict in Ukrainian rages on into its sixth month Russian President Vladimir Putin this week implemented a policy of ‘partial mobilisation’ to draft 300000 men into the army, marking Russia’s first mobilisation since the Second World War.
In a televised address to the nation, President Putin justified the mobilisation as a response to the threat posed by the west, who were seeking “to destroy our country”. Despite Putin’s assurances that the mobilisation would only be limited to reservists who had previous military experience, street protests erupted across Russia in opposition to the news reports that have described how many men of military age have fled the country to escape conscription.
A substantial number of conscripts are being recruited from Muslim population centers in the Caucuses and Crimea. This has been viewed as a deliberate move to reduce the casualties among ethnic Russians. The journalist C.J Werleman described the new recruits as “lambs being led to the slaughter”.
Some of the most violent protests against the call-up have been in the Muslim-majority province of Dagestan with hundreds of reported arrests. The province has suffered the most casualties of any other region of Russia. A report by the BBC found at least 301 Dagestani soldiers had died in battle, ten times more than from Moscow.
Over 100 protestors were detained by authorities in the provincial capital Makhachkala. Videos posted on social media show violent clashes between Dagestani civilians and police authorities. Both uniformed and plain-clothed officers have been filmed beating male and female protestors. Despite the authority’s attempts at a crackdown, the protesters have been undeterred. Footage from various demonstrations shows how women have been at the forefront of the protests, chanting “no to war” and “our sons are not cannon fodder”.
However, Mukhammad Mairanov, the chairman of the pro-Russia Islamic Muftiate (representative bodies of Muslims of the North Caucasus) proclaimed that any Dagestani killed in the war would become a shaheed (martyr) and go straight to heaven. Conversely, one video circulating on social media shows a woman confronting a Dagestani official, shouting “A Shaheed (martyr) Does Not Die For Putin.”
Similarly, in neighbouring Chechnya enforced mobilisation is being met with equal disdain by the population, who vigorously protested the call-up and chanted identical anti-war slogans.
This strategy can be seen as a desperate attempt by Putin to use minorities to shield ethnic Russians in a prolonged conflict that has already led to a reported 50000 Russian casualties. This move would placate the mainstream Russian population, as expendable Muslim casualties would not evoke the same outrage.