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Reports from Russia suggest an army and leader in desperate need:
- Anti-war protesters have been rounded up and conscripted directly into the military, according to a watchdog group. Those who refuse can be punished with up to 15 years in prison.
As world leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York and condemned him, Russian President Vladimir Putin was back home, scrambling to recharge his exhausted war machine.
His Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was notably absent as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a scathing soliloquy to the UN Security Council, documenting what he called Russia’s war crimes since February .
“If Russia stops fighting, the war is over. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine stops,” Blinken said, promising that the United States would maintain its growing support for Ukraine.
CNN’s Katie Bo Lillis reported on Thursday that Putin was giving direct instructions to generals in the field, suggesting a level of micromanagement rare in modern warfare and evidence of Russian military dysfunction that the war in Ukraine has exposed.
“There are significant disagreements over strategy with military leaders struggling to agree on where to focus efforts to strengthen defensive lines, multiple sources familiar with US intelligence said,” according to Lillis. Read the rest of Lillis’ report.
The cost to Russia has been well documented, but these new reports of harm to its citizens and prisons suggest a new chapter of militarization.
In a speech, Putin announced the “partial mobilization” as being focused on reservists with previous military experience. But the fine print of his written decree raised questions about whether anyone able-bodied could be forced into uniform.
CNN’s international team noted, “The ultimate meaning of the apparent discrepancy is not yet clear. And it remains to be seen if the Kremlin wants a broader mobilization of the civilian population in general.
There is evidence that some Russians are not interested in waiting to find out how far the mobilization will go.
CNN Travel reported renewed interest in flights from Russia. Photos of long lines of traffic at Russia’s land borders suggest people are fleeing the country to Kazakhstan, Georgia and Mongolia.
Exodus and alarm: Russians flee as fears over Putin’s mobilization plan grow
“(Putin) has de facto declared war on the home front – not only on the opposition and civil society, but on the male population of Russia,” wrote Andrei Kolesnikov, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of several books on Russian political and social history, in an essay for CNN Opinion. Learn more about taking Kolesnikov.
Simply forcing people into the military won’t solve Putin’s problems, according to a pointed analysis by CNN’s Brad Lendon. The exhausted Russian army does not have the training capacity or supplies for so many people.
“If they end up facing Ukrainian guns on the front lines,” Lendon wrote of the calls, “they will likely become the latest victims of the invasion Putin launched more than seven months ago that saw the Russian military fail in almost every aspect of modern warfare.
Lendon cited the open-source intelligence website Oryx, which uses only losses confirmed by photographic or video evidence to document Russia’s loss of more than 6,300 vehicles, including 1,168 tanks, since the fighting began. .
Nadya Tolokonnikova is the Russian dissident and founding member of the group of activists and artists known as Pussy Riot. She spent two years in a Russian prison and told CNN on Thursday that it will become increasingly difficult for the Russians to oppose Putin.
“I know perfectly well the price to pay to demonstrate in Putin’s Russia. And that price is rising day by day as Putin grows increasingly uneasy about his position in the geopolitical arena.
But she said the movement against him was growing.
“People who oppose Putin, they have real power, and that’s the reason for Putin’s crackdowns on us,” she said. “We build (a) Alternative Russia with values different from those of Putin. We want to be part of Western civilization.
Singer reveals what happened to her after she protested Putin
While the news out of Russia looks very bad for Putin and the news out of Ukraine suggests that the Ukrainian military continues to surpass all expectations, it is still hard to imagine a change in leadership there.
He is entrenched, as we have written here before, until the government turns against him.
The same is not true in democracies, where leaders come and go. It is therefore worth watching also another geopolitical story from the UN meeting in New York which can ultimately be one of the weaknesses of Western democracies.
In an exclusive US interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, French President Emmanuel Macron warned of this crisis.
“I think we have [a] great crisis of democracies, of what I would call liberal democracies. Let’s be clear on this. Why? First, because being open societies and being open and very cooperative democracies puts pressure on your people. It could destabilize them,” Macron said.
CNN’s Paul LeBlanc pointed out that “Macron’s comments echo President Joe Biden’s broad efforts to define 21st century global competition as one defined by democracies versus autocracies.” Learn more about Macron’s interview.