Nearly 800 people have been detained in Russia as protests against the country’s partial military mobilization continue in cities across the country.
As of Sunday, at least 796 people had been detained in 33 cities, with almost half of the total reported in the capital, Moscow, according to OVD-Info.
The human rights group, which monitors political arrests and detentions in Russia, said that some of those detained in the crackdown on dissent following this week’s military call-up were minors.
The demonstrations erupted within hours after President Vladimir Putin on September 21 announced the partial military mobilization, which is intended to buttress Russian military forces fighting in Ukraine.
Russian police have been mobilized in cities where protests were called for by the opposition group Vesna and supporters of opposition politician Alexey Navalny.
Images on Russian media have shown scenes of police using force against demonstrators, and eyewitnesses have said that the number of protesters have diminished since the first rallies. Many young men detained during the protests have reportedly been summoned to register for military service.
The call-up came as Russian forces suffered significant losses of occupied territories in Ukraine’s east owing to a counteroffensive launched by the Ukrainian military.
Putin followed up on his mobilization order on September 24 by imposing harsher penalties against Russians who willingly surrendered to Ukrainian forces or refused orders to mobilize.
Russian officials have said that up to 300,000 reserve forces will be called up and that only those with relevant combat and service experience will be drafted to fight.
However, Russian media reports have surfaced that men who have never been in the military or who are past draft age are being called up, and foreign media have reported that the real goal is to mobilize more than 1 million soldiers, which the Kremlin denies.
Western officials say that Russia has suffered 70,000 to 80,000 casualties, accounting for both deaths and injuries, since it launched its unprovoked war in Ukraine in February.
The mobilization to replenish those losses has seen men across Russia sent to register, reports of Russian citizens attempting to flee the country, and even rare complaints by pro-Kremlin voices.
Margarita Simonyan, the editor in chief of the state-backed media outlet RT, wrote on her Telegram channel on September 24 that while it had been announced that only people up to the age of 35 would be recruited, “summonses are going to 40-year-olds.”
“They’re infuriating people, as if on purpose, as if out of spite,” Simonyan said of the authorities behind the draft.
The same day, the head of the president’s Human Rights Council, Valery Fadeyev, called on Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to put a halt to the manner with which many draft boards in the country were proceeding.
On September 25, two of Russia’s most senior lawmakers weighed in on the growing controversy.
In a Telegram post, Valentina Matviyenko, chairwoman of the Federation Council, said that she was aware of reports that men who should be ineligible for the draft are being called up.
“Such excesses are absolutely unacceptable. And, I consider it absolutely right that they are triggering a sharp reaction in society,” she wrote.
Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma, wrote in a separate post that “complaints are being received.”
“If a mistake is made, it is necessary to correct it,” he said. “Authorities at every level should understand their responsibilities.”