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Reports of Putin’s troubles are piling up

(CNN) — Reports from Russia suggest an army and leader in desperate need:

Anti-war protesters have been arrested and recruited directly into the army, according to a monitoring group. Those who refuse can be punished with a prison sentence of 15 years.

Convicts have been offered their freedom in exchange for fighting on the front lines.

Reservists and citizens have been called up for duty in a “partial mobilization” of 300,000 people not seen since World War II.

As world leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York and condemned him, Russian President Vladimir Putin was at home, struggling to recharge his exhausted war machine.

His foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, was notably absent when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a searing soliloquy before the UN Security Council, documenting what he called Russia’s war crimes since February. .

“If Russia stops fighting, the war is over. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine is over,” Blinken said, pledging that the United States would maintain its growing support for Ukraine.

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Russia’s military splits as Putin gets directly involved

CNN’s Katie Bo Lillis reported Thursday that Putin is giving instructions directly to generals in the field, suggesting a level of micromanagement rare in modern warfare and evidence of the Russian military’s dysfunction that the Ukraine war has uncovered.

“There are significant disagreements over strategy with military leaders struggling to agree on where to focus their efforts to shore up defensive lines, multiple sources familiar with US intelligence said,” according to Lillis. Read more of Lillis’ report.

Which Russians will this mobilization affect?

The cost to Russia has been well documented, but these new reports of targeting its citizens and its prisons suggest a new chapter of militarization.

Long lines of people seek to leave Russia after Putin’s announcement 0:56

In a speech, Putin announced that the “partial mobilization” would focus on reservists with previous military experience. But the fine print in his written decree raised questions about whether anyone without a disability could be forced to wear a uniform.

CNN’s international team noted: “The ultimate meaning of the apparent discrepancy is still unclear. And it remains to be seen whether the Kremlin is in the mood for a broader mobilization of the general civilian population.”

There is evidence that some Russians are not interested in waiting to see how far the mobilization will go.

CNN Travel reported a surge in interest in flights outside of Russia. Photos of long lines of traffic at Russia’s land borders suggest people are fleeing the country for Kazakhstan, Georgia and Mongolia.

Russia: Over 1,000 Demonstrators Arrested in Anti-War Protests

Dragging more Russians into war

“(Putin) has declared de facto war on the home front, not only on the opposition and civil society, but also on Russia’s male population,” wrote Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of several books on the political and social history of Russia, in an essay for CNN Opinion. Read more about Kolesnikov’s opinion.

Russia cannot support the new troops

Simply forcing people into the military won’t solve Putin’s problems, according to a sharp analysis by CNN’s Brad Lendon. The exhausted Russian army does not have the training capacity or the supplies for so many people.

“If they end up facing Ukrainian weapons at the front,” Lendon wrote of the calls, “they are likely to become the latest casualties in the invasion that Putin began more than seven months ago and that has seen the Russian military fail in nearly every aspect of modern warfare.

Russia releases foreign prisoners 0:46

Lendon cited the open-source intelligence website Oryx, which uses only losses confirmed by photographic or video evidence to document Russia’s loss of more than 6,300 vehicles, including 1,168 tanks, since the fighting began.

Dissidents see progress

Nadya Tolokonnikova is the Russian dissident and founding member of the group of activists and artists known as Pussy Riot. She spent two years in a Russian jail and said Thursday on CNN that Russians will find it harder to oppose Putin.

“I am well aware of the price of protest in Putin’s Russia. And this price is growing by the day, with Putin becoming increasingly uncomfortable with his position in the geopolitical arena.”

But she said the movement against him is growing.

“People who oppose Putin have real power, and that is the reason for Putin’s crackdown on us,” he said. “We are building (an) alternative Russia with values ​​that are different from Putin’s values. We want to be part of Western civilization.”

Many try to escape Russia and plane tickets start to sell out 1:18

crisis of democracies

While the news from Russia seems very bad for Putin and the news from Ukraine suggests that the Ukrainian military continues to exceed all expectations, it is still hard to imagine a change in leadership there.

He is entrenched, as we have written here before, until the government turns against him.

The same does not happen in democracies, where leaders come and go. So it’s also worth monitoring another geopolitical story from the UN meeting in New York that may ultimately be one about the fragility of Western democracies.

In an exclusive US interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, French President Emmanuel Macron warned of this crisis.

“I think we have [una] great crisis of democracies, of what I would call liberal democracies. Let’s be clear about it. Why? First, because being open societies and being open and very cooperative democracies put pressure on their people. This could destabilize them,” Macron said.

CNN’s Paul LeBlanc noted that “Macron’s comments echo President Joe Biden’s broad effort to frame 21st-century global competition as one defined by democracies versus autocracies.” Read more about Macron’s interview.

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