Volodymyr Zelensky made an appeal to Russians on Saturday evening, saying panicking dictator Putin is ‘knowingly’ sending citizens to their death to save face for his failing Ukraine invasion.
Speaking in Russian during his daily video address, Ukraine’s wartime president called on Moscow’s forces to surrender, saying: ‘You will be treated in a civilised manner… no one will know the circumstances of your surrender’.
It came just hours after Russia passed a law toughening punishments for voluntary surrender and desertion, and as Putin’s riot police arrested more than 700 anti-mobilisation protesters in cities across Russia, including around 300 in Moscow.
Zelensky said: ‘It is better to refuse a conscription letter than to die as a war criminal in a foreign land. It is better to run away from a criminal mobilisation, than to be crippled and then held responsible in court for participating in a war of aggression.
‘It is better to surrender to the Ukrainian army than to be killed in the strikes of our weapons, fair strikes from Ukraine defending itself in this war.’
During a protest in Moscow, one brave one-legged woman in a wheelchair faced down shamed troopers with an anti-war placard. A powerful image of anti-mobilisation showed the woman, reportedly attending the peaceful protest in the Chistyye Prudy area, holding a placard up to Putin’s soldiers which translated as: ‘Do you want to be like me?’.
In Russian, Zelensky called on Moscow’s forces to surrender, saying: ‘You will be treated in a civilised manner… no one will know the circumstances of your surrender’
The one-legged woman could be seen holding a placard up shaming troopers. It read: ‘Do you want to be like me?’
The brave woman, who was attending an apparent peaceful protest in Moscow, was quickly surrounded by riot police for holding a placard up
The woman had the placard removed from her by Russian riot police. It is illegal to hold unsanctioned rallies in Russia
A wheelchair-bound participant courageously holds a placard during a rally after opposition activists called for street protests against the mobilisation
Unauthorised protests have broken out in Moscow this afternoon at Putin’s decision to call up so many men of the Russian population
A woman is violently manhandled by two Russian riot police in downtown Moscow as authorities quickly move to stamp out any overt signs of civil disobedience on a day where they arrested more than 730 people
The protesters will likely face severe repercussions for their brave disobedience under new legislation the Kremlin rushed through in the lead up to the mobilisation announcement on Wednesday September 21
The courageous woman with bright pink hair had unzipped her bag before pulling the placard out as photographers descended on her before the riot police arrived.
One Russian officer could later be seen holding the placard which appeared to have been removed from the woman after photographers had gathered around her.
A rights group claimed that around 730 people were detained across Russia at protests against the mobilisation order today, just three days after Putin ordered Russia’s first military draft since World War Two for the conflict in Ukraine.
The independent OVD-info protest monitoring group said it was aware of detentions across 32 difference cities, from St Petersburg to Siberia.
Protests broke out across central Moscow despite unsanctioned rallies being illegal under Russian law, which also forbids any activity considered to defame the armed forces.
It comes after Russian couples were pictured being forced to say their goodbyes as hundreds of thousands of army reservists and prisoners are sent to Ukraine.
Train stations and army checkpoints have become the scene for the separations, often involving young couples – and men who don’t want to fight.
Police officers detain a protester during an unsanctioned rally hosted by the Vesna (Spring) Movement in protest against the military invasion on Ukraine and partial mobilization
More than 700 people were detained at the anti-war rallies in Russian cities on Saturday
Russia’s partial mobilisation announced on Wednesday will likely be one of his first big logistical challenges, with the hundreds of thousands of reservists being called up needing equipment and training before deployment
Military-age men have sought to leave, with flights full and neighbouring countries receiving an influx of Russians, including Georgia where 2,300 private vehicles were waiting to enter at one crossing, regional Russian authorities said
‘We were talking to our friends and many are thinking about leaving,’ said Daria, 22, after fleeing Russia to Istanbul along with many of her compatriots
‘Not everyone wanted to leave in February. The (mobilisation) decision of September 21 forced many to think about it again’
More than 700 people were detained in protests on Saturday against the partial mobilisation, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info
Now that President Vladimir Putin has signed the legislation, servicemen who desert, surrender ‘without authorisation’, refuse to fight or disobey orders can face up to 10 years imprisonment
A young Russian recruit and his partner kiss outside a recruitment centre in Volgograd today as couples were forced to say goodbye
One young woman looks despondent as her boyfriend prepares to enlist in Putin’s army following the Russian President’s orders on Wednesday
Families and loved onewere seen saying goodbye to each other as Russia’s partial mobilisation continues under Putin’s watch
Protests in major cities broke out following the Kremlin leader’s announcement of the troop surge, while queues at the nation’s borders have appeared as young men attempt to flee.
While the initial protests were quickly stamped out by Putin’s well-trained domestic security troops, new protests have broken out this afternoon in Moscow.
Images show menacing, helmeted riot police manhandling brave men and women who ventured out into the rain to protest Putin’s mobilisation.
Soldiers have also been spotted drinking and brawling on their way to basic training.
European Council president Charles Michel advised EU members yesterday to offer asylum to conscientious objectors leaving Russia to avoid the draft.
Russian goombahs in riot gear were quick to drag away brave protesters on a grey and rainy Moscow day as they arrested more than 730 people
A mother of one young soldier wipes tears away as he is bussed to a training camp to prepare
A tearful dad holds his child as he readies to say goodbye and fight on the front lines in Ukraine
The EU should be open ‘to those who don’t want to be instrumentalised by the Kremlin’, he said.
‘If in Russia people are in danger because of their political opinions, because they do not follow this crazy Kremlin decision to launch this war in Ukraine, we must take this into consideration’, he told Politico.
Estonian foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu earlier said: ‘A refusal to fulfil one’s civic duty in Russia or a desire to do so does not constitute sufficient grounds for being granted asylum in another country.’
The man embraces his mother as police and fellow recruits watched on in Volgograd today
It came as Ukrainians in Russian-held parts of the country were visited by soldiers and ordered to vote in ‘referendums’ that have been widely condemned by international observers.
One poll branded ‘ridiculous’ saw a supposed 97 per cent in Donetsk and Luhansk in favour of joining Russia.
Ballot boxes have also been opened across Russia itself, ostensibly to allow displaced Ukrainians to vote.
But in reality they offer more opportunities for vote-rigging.
Melinda Simmons, the British Ambassador to Ukraine, said that the outcome of the elections had ‘already been decided’ and described the ‘sham’ referendums as a ‘media exercise designed to pursue further an illegal invasion by Russia’.
The votes nevertheless mark a significant development in the war as the sham results will allow Putin to spin a narrative that any Ukrainian attempts to reclaim those territories is an assault on Russia itself.
That expands the suite of options he can use in response to ‘defend’ his territory – including, perhaps, nuclear weapons.
It would also allow Putin to upgrade his ‘special military operation’ to a full-blown war, expanding his powers to conscript men and punish those who try to quit.
Escaped Russians get off a bus from St Petersburg to Helsinki Airport earlier today
Road travel remains a good option for Russians hoping to avoid Putin’s latest mobilisation
Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov lashed out at the US and the West in a rant at the UN about ‘Russophobia’, accusing America of seeking global domination and doubling-down on Moscow’s sham referendums in occupied territories of Ukraine – as Putin’s puppet parliament prepares to rubber-stamp a series of laws formally annexing the breakaway regions.
During a thunderous speech at the UN General Assembly in New York, Lavrov insisted that Russia was ‘right’ to launch its brutal invasion on February 24.
He used the rostrum to hit back at Washington and its allies after days of Western leaders denouncing Moscow’s aggression against its neighbour, a former Soviet republic which only broke away from decades of Russian rule 30 years ago.
Lavrov raged: ‘The official Russophobia in the West is unprecedented. Now the scope is grotesque. They are not shying away from declaring the intent to inflict not only military defeat on our country but also to destroy and fracture Russia.’
He claimed the US was expanding the Monroe Doctrine – its 19th-century declaration of Latin America as its exclusive sphere of influence – and ‘trying to turn the entire world into its own backyard’.
Lavrov added: ‘Declaring themselves victorious in the Cold War, Washington erected themselves almost into an envoy of God on Earth, without any obligations but the sacred right to act with impunity wherever and wherever they want.’
He also defended Putin’s warped view that people living in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine were in fact really Russian, describing them as people claiming land ‘where their ancestors have been living for hundreds of years.’
‘The West is now throwing a fit’ on the referendums, Lavrov said.
US President Joe Biden and other Western leaders have vowed never to accept results from the ‘sham’ referendums, seeing them as part of an effort to change borders by force.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov bitterly criticised Western nations on Saturday over the Ukraine war, telling the United Nations that the United States and its allies sought to ‘destroy’ his country
People cast their votes in controversial referendums at a hospital in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on September 24. Voting will run from Friday to Tuesday in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, with people asked to decide if they want these regions to become part of Russia