MOSCOW (Reuters) -President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that “all mistakes” made in a call-up to reinforce Russia’s military operation in Ukraine should be corrected, his first public acknowledgment that the “partial mobilisation” he announced last week had not gone smoothly.
There have been widespread public expressions of discontent from officials and citizens over the way the mobilisation has been handled, including complaints about enlistment officers sending call-up papers to clearly ineligible men.
Thousands of men have fled Russia to avoid a draft that was billed as enlisting those with military experience and required specialities but has often appeared oblivious to individuals’ service record, health, student status or even age.
Some 2,000 people have also been arrested at unsanctioned anti-war protests in over 30 towns and cities, and some of them promptly given call-up papers – something the Kremlin said was perfectly legal.
“In the course of this mobilisation, many questions are coming up, and all mistakes must be corrected and prevented from happening in the future,” Putin said.
“For example, I’m thinking of fathers of many children, or people suffering from chronic diseases, or who those who are already past conscription age.”
Russia’s announcement on Sept. 21 of its first public mobilisation since World War Two had even attracted criticism from the Kremlin’s own official supporters, something almost unheard of in Russia since it sent its army into Ukraine seven months ago.
“They’re infuriating people, as if on purpose, as if out of spite. As if they’d been sent by Kyiv,” the strongly pro-Kremlin editor of Russia’s state-run RT news channel, Margarita Simonyan, said on Saturday.
On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov acknowledged that some call-ups had been issued in error, saying mistakes were being corrected by regional governors and the ministry of defence.
Putin notably refrained from assigning blame for the errors – either to the ministry, led by his close ally Sergei Shoigu, or to the regional officials entrusted with deciding precisely who call-up papers should go to.
Shoigu said last week that Moscow planned to enlist only 300,000 personnel. The Kremlin later denied a report by the independent Novaya Gazeta Europe that an undisclosed clause in Putin’s mobilisation decree provided for one million reservists to be called up.
(Reporting by Reuters; writing by Kevin Liffey; editing by Philippa Fletcher)