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Hundreds arrested in Russia

Hundreds arrested in Russia
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. (Reuters)

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Hundreds of people have been arrested by authorities as protests against Russia’s new “partial mobilisation” continue across the country, an independent rights group has said.

OVD-Info said 724 people were detained across 32 different cities on Saturday.

Widespread demonstrations have broken out since President Vladimir Putin announced plans to draft 300 000 men to fight in Ukraine.

Unsanctioned rallies are banned under Russian law.

But Putin’s move to draft civilians into the military has sparked large scale protests in urban areas, with more than 1 000 people being detained at demonstrations earlier this week.

In Moscow, news agency AFP reported witnessing one demonstrator shouting “we are not cannon fodder” as she was arrested by officers.

And in St Petersburg, Russia’s second city, one man told reporters: “I don’t want to go to war for Putin.”

Seventy-year-old Natalya Dubova told AFP that she opposed the war and confessed she was “afraid for young people” being ordered to the front.

Some of those arrested on Saturday reported being handed draft papers and ordered to report to recruiting centres while being held by security officials. The Kremlin defended the practice earlier this week, saying “it isn’t against the law”.

Moscow has also approved harsh new punishments for those accused of dereliction of duty once drafted.

Putin signed fresh decrees on Saturday imposing punishments of up to 10 years imprisonment for any soldier caught surrendering, attempting to desert the military or refusing to fight.

The president also signed orders granting Russian citizenship to any foreign national who signs up to serve a year in the country’s military.

The decree, which some observers have suggested displays how severe Moscow’s shortage of troops has become, bypasses the usual requirement of five years of residency in the country.

Elsewhere, other young Russians continue to flee mobilisation by seeking to leave the country.

On the border with Georgia, queues of Russian cars stretch back more than 30km (18 miles) and the interior ministry has urged people not to travel.

Local Russian officials have admitted that there’s been a significant influx of cars trying to cross – with nearly 2 500 vehicles waiting at one checkpoint.

The admission is a change of tone from Russia, with the Kremlin describing reports of Russians fleeing conscription as “fake” on Thursday. (BBC)