© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is seen on screens via a video link from the IK-2 corrective penal colony in Pokrov during a court hearing to consider an appeal against his prison sentence in Moscow, Russia May 24, 2022. REUTERS/Evgen
TBILISI (Reuters) – Russia’s opposition on Wednesday called for protests against President Vladimir Putin after he ordered the mobilisation of 300,000 reservists for what Kremlin foe Alexei Navalny said was a failing criminal war.
Putin on Wednesday ordered Russia’s first mobilisation since World War Two and backed a plan to annex swathes of Ukraine, warning the West he was not bluffing when he said he would be ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia.
Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader who is currently in prison, said Putin was sending more Russians to their death for a failing war.
“It is clear that the criminal war is getting worse, deepening, and Putin is trying to involve as many people as possible in this,” Navalny said in a video message from jail recorded and published by his lawyers.
“He wants to smear hundreds of thousands of people in this blood,” Navalny said.
Since the Feb. 24 invasion, Putin has cracked down on dissent and the media, with thousands arrested at anti-war protests and a new law that calls for 15-year prison sentences for those who distribute “fake news” about the military.
Russian state television casts critics as traitors who are in the pay of the West. Putin says the country is in a battle with the West over Ukraine which he says is being used by the United States and its allies in an attempt to destroy Russia.
Russia’s anti-war groups called for street protests against the mobilisation order.
“This means that thousands of Russian men – our fathers, brothers and husbands – will be thrown into the meat grinder of war,” the Vesna anti-war coalition said. “Now the war has come to every home and every family.”
It called for Russians to take to the streets in major cities on Wednesday.
In the days after the start of the war, riot police cracked down on nightly street protests detaining at least 16,000 protesters, according to the OVD-Info rights group.