Russian dissident opens fire in enlistment office as war protests continue
WARNING — DISTRESSING CONTENT: A young man shot a Russian military officer in an unusually bold attack reflecting resistance to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to mobilise hundreds of thousands of more men to wage war on Ukraine.
The shooting comes after scattered arson attacks on enlistment offices and protests in Russian cities against the military call-up that have resulted in at least 2,000 arrests.
Russia is seeking to bolster its military as its Ukraine offensive has bogged down.
In the attack in the Siberian city of Ust-Ilimsk, 25-year-old resident Ruslan Zinin walked into the enlistment office saying “no one will go to fight” and “we will all go home now,” according to local media.
Zinin was arrested and officials vowed tough punishment. Authorities said the military commandant was in intensive care.
A witness quoted by a local news site said Zinin was in a roomful of people called up to fight and troops from his region were heading to military bases on Tuesday.
Protests also flared up in Dagestan, one of Russia’s poorer regions in the North Caucasus.
❗️В Усть-Илимске Иркутской области мужчина открыл стрельбу в военкомате. Начальник военной комиссии раненhttps://t.co/GEOz5JgHyI
Видео: «Тайга.инфо» pic.twitter.com/5cRzI8nRCY
— Медиазона (@mediazzzona) September 26, 2022
Local media reported that “several hundred” demonstrators took to the streets Tuesday in its capital, Makhachkala.
Videos circulated online showing dozens of protesters tussling with the police sent to disperse them.
Demonstrations also continued in another of Russia’s North Caucasus republics, Kabardino-Balkaria, where videos on social media showed a local official attempting to address a crowd of women.
Russia could escalate conflict after illegal referendums
Concerns are growing that Russia may seek to escalate the conflict — including potentially using nuclear weapons — once it completes what Ukraine and the West see as illegal referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine.
The voting, in which residents are asked whether they want their regions to become part of Russia, began last week and ends Tuesday, under conditions that are anything but free or fair.
Tens of thousands of residents had already fled the regions amid months of fighting, and images shared by those who remained showed armed Russian troops going door-to-door to pressure Ukrainians into voting.
“Every night and day there is inevitable shelling in the Donbas, under the roar of which people are forced to vote for Russian ‘peace,’” Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko said on Monday.
Russia is widely expected to declare the results in its favour, a step that could see Moscow annex the four regions and then defend them as its own territory.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday no date has been set for recognising the regions as part of Russia but it could be just days away.
Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, said Russia would pay a high, if unspecified, price if it made good on veiled threats to use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine.
“If Russia crosses this line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia. The United States will respond decisively,” he told NBC.
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Elsewhere, the British government on Monday slapped sanctions on 92 businesses and individuals it says are involved with organising the referendums in occupied Ukraine.
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called the votes on joining Russia “sham referendums held at the barrel of a gun".
He said they “follow a clear pattern of violence, intimidation, torture and forced deportations".
The White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre likewise said Monday the US “will never recognise” the four regions as part of Russia, and threatened Moscow with “swift and severe” economic costs.
Putin 'ready to cooperate'
Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, meanwhile, held an unannounced meeting Monday in the southern Russian city of Sochi
The two claimed they were ready to cooperate with the West — “if they treat us with respect,” Putin said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday that Putin had told Turkey’s president last week that Moscow was ready to resume negotiations with Ukraine but had “new conditions” for a cease-fire.
The Kremlin last week announced a partial mobilisation — its first since World War II — to add at least 300,000 troops to its forces in Ukraine.
The move, a sharp shift from Putin’s previous efforts to portray the war as a limited military operation, proved unpopular at home.
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