Ukraine war: 'What's happening in Russia now is total fear'

1 week ago 11

By Sarah Rainsford
Eastern Europe correspondent, Vilnius

Police officers detain a pistillate   successful  Moscow connected  21 September 2022, pursuing  calls to protestation  against partial mobilisation announced by President Vladimir PutinImage source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Russian President Vladimir Putin's bid for partial mobilisation led to protests successful Moscow

In the centre of the Lithuanian superior Vilnius, a ample banner is taped to a gangly building, supra a Ukrainian flag, that reads: "Putin, the Hague is waiting for you."

On metropolis buses, physics displays flick betwixt announcing their destination and declaring "love" for Ukraine with small hearts.

This week Lithuania - unneurotic with Latvia, Estonia and Poland - banned each Russian tourists, arguing they should not beryllium enjoying ideology and state successful Europe portion their authorities attacks those precise values successful Ukraine.

The determination has raised concerns among Russian absorption activists already abroad.

"It's unusual to prohibition radical for being Russian, whether oregon not they enactment Putin's regime," argues Anastasia Shevchenko, an activistic who spent 2 years nether location apprehension for protesting against the Russian president.

When Russia invaded its neighbour, she was serving a suspended condemnation and 1 incorrect move, adjacent an anti-war comment, could person enactment her down bars.

But Anastasia could not carnivore to beryllium silenced, truthful she squeezed her family's beingness into a mates of cases and they fled successful the mediate of the nighttime for Lithuania.

Image caption,

Anastasia Shevchenko near Russia for Lithuania aft her lad was asked to constitute a missive wishing Russian soldiers victory

"What is going connected successful Russia present is similar full fear," Anastasia tells me, successful Vilnius. "So galore radical are frightened due to the fact that we cognize they tin bash anything. It's not lone prison, oregon fines: you tin beryllium killed oregon poisoned. It's similar a immense prison. All the country."

Since we spoke, Vladimir Putin has declared a partial mobilisation of Russian reservists - the archetypal existent trial of enactment for his invasion. The aboriginal signs bash not look good.

Protesters came retired successful respective cities shouting "no to war!" and adjacent "Putin to the trenches!". More than a 1000 radical were detained and immoderate were past served with call-up papers astatine the constabulary station.

But adjacent much Russians are heading for the borderline by immoderate way near to them.

While queues to participate Finland are growing, Latvia and Estonia some accidental escaping enlistment is not grounds for asylum. Lithuania volition see cases individually, but the premier curate clarified that it was "not the work of different countries to prevention Russians fleeing mobilisation".

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A gathering successful cardinal Vilnius, Lithuania, displays an anti-Putin connection supra the Ukrainian flag

Ukrainians person nary sympathy with those present protesting against the draft, if those aforesaid radical did not travel retired against the sidesplitting of Ukrainian civilians.

Some spot adjacent the astir persecuted Russian activists arsenic cowards, due to the fact that the hazard they look for resisting President Putin is thing compared to being bombarded by his military.

Those activists, however, importune that it is not that simple.

"Of course, we consciousness this responsibility. We should person utilized the accidental to alteration our country," erstwhile absorption MP Dmitry Gudkov accepts.

"Putin is simply a warfare criminal, helium is sidesplitting people. But however tin Russians wrong Russia halt Putin? It's not possible."

Mr Gudkov near Moscow good earlier the war, saying helium was warned to spell - oregon spell to jail. Today, each salient Russian absorption figures are either successful custody, dormant oregon successful exile.

So astatine a caller gathering successful Vilnius, a slogan connected signifier called connected those overseas to "be brave, similar Ukraine", but the temper was subdued with a hint of helplessness.

Many are really present looking to Ukraine to bash what they could not execute peacefully wrong Russia: decision Putin.

"I deliberation the West should ramp-up subject assistance to Ukraine, that's the lone option," Mr Gudkov says.

Alexei Navalny's squad agree, but spell further. Since the absorption person was imprisoned, dozens of his squad person moved to Vilnius to flight prosecution arsenic "extremists" themselves.

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Leonid Volkov, an adjutant of Putin professional Alexei Navalny, is calling for Western sanctions connected Russia's "war enablers"

"Putin committed his gravest mistake erstwhile helium invaded Ukraine. I judge helium dramatically decreased the duration of his reign," Mr Navalny's right-hand man, Leonid Volkov, tells me.

This week's call-up has confirmed that belief, arsenic videos of men saying tearful goodbyes to their families popular up each implicit the country.

"No-one attacked Russia, no-one needed these separations and these deaths," Mr Volkov wrote connected Twitter. "But connected 24 February, a maniac led his state down a dead-end."

Mr Navalny's squad person been trying to undermine enactment for the warfare via YouTube. The assemblage for their shows, made successful Vilnius, has doubled since the invasion.

They are besides pushing for much Western sanctions - not visa bans against a full nation.

They privation Ukraine's allies to look beyond President Putin's near-circle and authorisation those whom Mr Volkov calls "war enablers" - a database of implicit 6,000 names, from judges to authorities journalists.

"Our telephone to Western governments is to authorisation each those radical and contiguous them with an exit strategy: archer them what they person to bash to get disconnected the list," Mr Volkov says.

"This volition make splits. Many volition commencement to leap ship, and Putin's strategy can't enactment without them," helium adds.

Image source, EPA

Image caption,

In a televised code this week, Vladimir Putin said helium was calling up thousands of other troops to combat successful Ukraine

Russian troops person since been forced into retreat from ample areas of Ukraine and President Putin has responded arsenic usual: by escalating.

As good arsenic the call-up, determination is his menace of annexing much Ukrainian onshore and different atomic informing for the West.

Russia's president has staked a immense magnitude connected this run and things could good get overmuch worse.

That leaves activistic Anastasia Shevchenko struggling with a consciousness of guilt that she could not bash much to halt him.

"I blasted myself and it's not a bully feeling, judge me," she admits.

But her determination to permission Russia was sealed erstwhile her lad had to constitute a missive astatine his superior schoolhouse to the soldiers, wishing them victory.

Instead, helium told them they had nary close to combat their neighbours.

"I deliberation each we tin bash present arsenic Russians is accidental atrocious - and protestation against Vladimir Putin," Anastasia says. "Because Putin personally is the crushed for what's going on. Why truthful galore radical are dying."

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