For anyone wondering how Russian President Vladimir Putin would respond to the Ukrainian military’s recent lightning counteroffensive in Kharkiv, this week offered a clarifying and in many ways horrifying answer. In a speech Wednesday, Putin announced what he called a partial mobilization of Russia’s military reserves in an effort to shore up the Russian army’s collapsing front lines.
In doing so, however, he was forced to admit to the Russian public that the so-called special military operation that was meant to last three days is now a failed war entering its eight month. The immediate reaction across the country illustrated why Putin had hoped to avoid taking such a step.
In addition to rare street protests in Moscow and other major cities, there was an exodus of military-aged men from Russia, with one-way flights out of the country fully booked and lines of cars backed up at border crossings to Georgia and Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, videos on social media showed angry crowds outside mobilization centers in Russia’s ethnic republics and impoverished peripheries, from where the bulk of the 300,000 new conscripts are likely to come.