Russia’s ‘demobilization’ movement under attack


Russian citizens’ groups campaigning for “demobilization”—returning conscripts and reservists from the front in Ukraine—are increasingly finding themselves in the crosshairs of the authorities. On May 31, The Way Home, the most prominent organization campaigning to bring Russia’s mobilized reservists home, was branded a “foreign agent” by the Justice Ministry, as was one of its most prominent leaders.  The label, reminiscent of the “enemy of the people” designation of the Soviet era, imposes harsh constraints on activities and requires sources of funding to be disclosed.

On June 3, a rally held by the wives of mobilized soldiers took place outside the Defense Ministry in Moscow. A dozen women with their children stood in front of the building, holding signs demanding a meeting with new Defense Minister Andrey Belousov. While Belousov did not come down, a senior ministry official, Col. Alexander Borisenko, was sent out to speak to the protesters—though he ended up accusing them of “rocking the boat,” and telling them their protest meant that they no longer had the right to call themselves Russian citizens.

A police van arrived at the scene, and officers reminded the protesters that their actions were illegal and threatened to arrest them. Protesters stood their ground and refused to leave, and the police eventually left without arresting anyone.

Pressure from the authorities is not the only problem faced by the wider Russian demobilization movement, however. A once cohesive and united movement is increasingly fractured by internal disputes—such as whether to take an expicit anti-war stance despite the risk of repression.

The factions are broken down in a June 13 report from Novaya Gazeta Europe, a Russian magazine now publishing in exile.

See our last report on the crackdown on dissent in Russia.

Photo: PauliaMobility/Telegram via Novaya Gazeta Europe