Russians flee to Georgia to escape Putin’s conscription order as troops arrest 2,000 protesters


Opposition to Vladimir Putin’s spluttering invasion of Ukraine and mobilisation order is continuing to grow in Russia, as families flee to Georgia and mass anti-war protests break out across the country amid mounting fears that one million men will be conscripted.

Putin’s escalation of his wicked and barbaric war has sparked an exodus, with men, women and children seen pulling luggage beside cars with Russian licence plates parked at the Georgian side of the Verkhni Lars customs checkpoint some 125 miles outside Tbilisi.

Brave women in the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala, one of Russia’s poorest regions, held placards and shouted ‘no to war’ as they faced down the Kremlin’s shock troops at a large anti-war demo today – even as riot police fired warning shots into the air to frighten them.

And now even the Russian dictator’s allies are blaming the regime’s cack-handed handling of the failed invasion, brutal clampdown on civil liberties since February 24 and forcible conscription of reservists for the exodus and the scale of the protests which have erupted across the country.

The Speaker of Putin’s puppet parliament Valentina Matvienko said the use of force – including stun guns and truncheons – by officers pressing people into the Russian Army was ‘absolutely unacceptable’, adding: ‘I consider it absolutely right that they are triggering a sharp reaction in society.’

Putin’s riot police have arrested more than 2,000 anti-war protesters this week after the increasingly panicked and irrational dictator announced a mobilisation order and held the world to ransom by threatening to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine and the West.

Videos shared to social media shows locals tussling with officers in the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala, where dozens of women chanted ‘No to war!’ at a protest against mobilisation

Meanwhile, thousands have opted to instead flee to neighbouring countries, with photos showing people dragging suitcases across the Georgian border

Meanwhile, thousands have opted to instead flee to neighbouring countries, with photos showing people dragging suitcases across the Georgian border

The speaker of Russia’s upper house Ms Matvienko tried to deflect the blame away from the Kremlin, arguing that the governors of Russia’s 85 federal regions held ‘full responsibility’ for enforcing the conscription order.

Meanwhile, Valeriy Fadeev, the Russian government’s human rights ombudsman, yesterday expressed concern that 70 fathers of large families and nurses without military skills had been drafted.

And Margarita Simonyan, the head of the pro-Putin state-owned Russia Today media group, posted examples of violations on her Telegram channel, including a doctor with no previous military experience being told he would have to operate a grenade launcher. 

In the mainly Muslim area of Dagestan today, videos shared to social media show women in head scarves chasing police away from a rally and standing in front of police cars carrying detained protesters, demanding their release.

Dozens of women chanted ‘No to war!’ in the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala, while police fired warning shots to disperse more than 100 people who blocked a highway in the region in an attempt to prevent their men from being mobilised.

OVD-Info group, an independent Russian human rights monitor, said it was concerned by reports of ‘very tough detentions’ occurring in the region.

Women also protested in the Siberian city of Yakutsk, chanting ‘No to genocide!’ and ‘let our children be free’ while marching in a circle around police, who later dragged some away or forced them into police vans, according to videos shared by Russian media.

Thousands have opted to instead flee to neighbouring countries, with photos showing people dragging suitcases across the Georgian border.

In the mainly Muslim area of Dagestan, videos shared to social media show women in head scarves chasing police away from a rally

In the mainly Muslim area of Dagestan, videos shared to social media show women in head scarves chasing police away from a rally

Those fleeing walk past vehicles with Russian licence plates near the Nizhniy Lars customs checkpoint between Georgia and Russia

Those fleeing walk past vehicles with Russian licence plates near the Nizhniy Lars customs checkpoint between Georgia and Russia

Russians fled the country on foot in the pouring rain today, while thousands of cars queued up at the border

Russians fled the country on foot in the pouring rain today, while thousands of cars queued up at the border

More than 2,000 people have been detained across Russia for protesting the draft, including 798 people in 33 towns on Saturday, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info. Pictured: officers detaining a woman in Moscow on Wednesday

More than 2,000 people have been detained across Russia for protesting the draft, including 798 people in 33 towns on Saturday, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info. Pictured: officers detaining a woman in Moscow on Wednesday 

Those fleeing, wearing ponchos and raincoats, walk past vehicles with Russian licence plates near the Nizhniy Lars customs checkpoint between Georgia and Russia.  

Russian authorities acknowledged a ‘significant’ influx of cars trying to cross from Russia into Georgia today, with one official saying there is ‘significant congestion of private vehicles… around 2,300’. 

Zelensky claims Putin’s rush to conscript ‘1million’ men is proof Russian army ‘is not able to fight’ 

Ukraine’s president today spoke of how Russia’s rush to mobilise hundreds of thousands of recruits is a tacit acknowledgement that its ‘army is not able to fight’.

Speaking to U.S. broadcaster CBS, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also said he’s bracing for more Russian strikes on Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure, as the Kremlin seeks to ramp up the pressure on Ukraine and its Western backers as the weather gets colder. Zelenskyy warned that this winter ‘will be very difficult.’

‘They will shoot missiles, and they will target our electric grid. This is a challenge, but we are not afraid of that,’ he said.

He portrayed the Russian mobilisation – its first such call-up since World War II – as a signal of weakness, not strength, saying: ‘They admitted that their army is not able to fight with Ukraine anymore.’

Although the European Union is now largely off limits to most Russians, with direct flights stopped and its land borders increasingly closed to them, an exodus of Russian men fleeing military service is creating divisions among European officials over whether they should be granted safe haven.

German officials have voiced a desire to help Russian men deserting military service and have called for a European-wide solution. Germany has held out the possibility of granting asylum to deserters and those refusing the draft.

In France, senators are arguing that Europe has a duty to help and warned that not granting refuge to fleeing Russians could play into Putin’s hands, feeding his narrative of Western hostility to Russia.

‘Closing our frontiers would fit neither with our values nor our interests,’ a group of more than 40 French senators said. Turning away fleeing Russians would be ‘a mistake by Europe in the war of communication and influence that is playing out.’

Yet other EU countries are adamant that asylum should not be offered to Russian men fleeing now – when the war has moved into its eighth month. They include Lithuania, which borders Kaliningrad, a Russian Baltic Sea exclave. Its foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, tweeted: ‘Russians should stay and fight. Against Putin.’

His counterpart in Latvia, also an EU member bordering Russia, said the exodus poses ‘considerable security risks’ for the 27-nation bloc and that those fleeing now can’t be considered conscientious objectors since they did not act when Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Many ‘were fine with killing Ukrainians, they did not protest then,’ the Latvian foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, tweeted. He added that they still have ‘plenty of countries outside EU to go’.

Finland also said it intends to ‘significantly restrict’ entry to Russians entering the EU through its border with Russia. A Finnish opposition leader, Petteri Orpo, said fleeing Russian military reservists were an ‘obvious’ security risk and ‘we must put our national security first’.

Russia is pressing on with its call-up of hundreds of thousands of men, seeking to reverse recent losses. Without control of the skies over Ukraine, Russia is also making increasing use of suicide drones from Iran, with more strikes reported today in the Black Sea port city of Odesa.

A Russian protestor carries a placard showing a picture of Russian president Vladimir Putin with the name 'Terrorist No1' during a demonstration against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in Geneva, Switzerland

A Russian protestor carries a placard showing a picture of Russian president Vladimir Putin with the name ‘Terrorist No1’ during a demonstration against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in Geneva, Switzerland

Russian protestors in Switzerland carry placards against the war in Ukraine during a demonstration on Sunday

Russian protestors in Switzerland carry placards against the war in Ukraine during a demonstration on Sunday 

A protestor hold a sign saying 'no to war' during a demonstration against the Russian invasion of Ukraine

A protestor hold a sign saying ‘no to war’ during a demonstration against the Russian invasion of Ukraine

A Russian protestor in Geneva carries a placard showing a picture of Russian president Vladimir Putin with the direction of The Hague, the seat of the UN International Court of Justice

A Russian protestor in Geneva carries a placard showing a picture of Russian president Vladimir Putin with the direction of The Hague, the seat of the UN International Court of Justice

Russian protestors carry placards during a demonstration against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of the Palais des Nations, European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva

Russian protestors carry placards during a demonstration against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of the Palais des Nations, European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva

A demonstrator holds a poster of Russian president Vladimir Putin with the label 'murderer' covering his eyes

A demonstrator holds a poster of Russian president Vladimir Putin with the label ‘murderer’ covering his eyes 

A Russian protestor carries a placard showing a picture of Russian president Vladimir Putin with the name "Putler Kaput !" during a demonstration in Geneva, Switzerland

A Russian protestor carries a placard showing a picture of Russian president Vladimir Putin with the name “Putler Kaput !” during a demonstration in Geneva, Switzerland

For Ukrainian and Russian military planners, the clock is ticking, with the approach of winter expected to make fighting much more complicated. Already, rainy weather is bringing muddy conditions that are starting to limit the mobility of tanks and other heavy weapons, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said today.

Russian conscripts sent into Ukraine with RUSTY AKs: Civilian reservists forced to join Putin’s war machine are handed worn out weapons before heading to frontline 

Civilian reservists forced to join Vladimir Putin’s war machine are being issued with rusty worn-out old Kalashnikovs as weapons, a new video shows.

The recruits expressed dismay in a volley of swearwords after a tank crew was provided with long-discarded weapons from a military store in Primonsky region in the far east of Russia.

‘It’s the tank boys who were given this c*** [rusty Kalashnikovs],’ says one voice as the men are given their war kit.

‘They said: “You’ve got tanks, so don’t give a **** about the Kalashnikovs”.’

Russian tank crews were given weapons that looked decades old to take to war

Russian tank crews were given weapons that looked decades old to take to war

But the think-tank said Ukrainian forces are still gaining ground in their counteroffensive, launched in late August, that has rolled back the Russian occupation across large areas of the northeast and which also prompted Putin’s new drive for reinforcements.

The Kremlin said its initial aim is to add about 300,000 troops to its invasion force, which is struggling with equipment losses, mounting casualties and weakening morale. The mobilisation marks a sharp shift from Putin’s previous efforts to portray the war as a limited military operation that wouldn’t interfere with most Russians’ lives.

It also appears to have led to a change in rhetoric from India and China, who have heaped pressure on Vladimir Putin to end his faltering invasion of Ukraine in favour of peace talks.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged Russia and Ukraine not to let effects of their war ‘spill over’ and called for a diplomatic resolution at the United Nations General Assembly yesterday. 

Mr Yi also called for ‘fair and pragmatic’ peace talks to resolve all global issues.

He added: ‘China supports all efforts conducive to the peaceful resolution of the Ukraine crisis. The pressing priority is to facilitate talks for peace.

‘The fundamental solution is to address the legitimate security concerns of all parties and build a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture.’

His remarks were seconded by India, which also shares historic economic ties and bilateral defence agreements with Moscow.

It suggests support for Putin’s invasion among its two key allies is waning days after he announced he would mobilise 300,000 reservists and warned his country would use ‘all the means at our disposal’ to protect itself.

The Russian mobilisation is running hand-in-hand with Kremlin-orchestrated votes in four occupied regions of Ukraine that could pave the way for their imminent annexation by Russia.

Ukraine and its Western allies say the referendums in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south and the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions have no legal validity, not least because many tens of thousands of their people have fled. 

Ukraine has requested an urgent UN Security Council meeting over the sham referendums, calling for Russia to be ‘held accountable for its further attempts to change Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders in a violation of the UN Charter,’ foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said on Twitter.

Kremlin officials, military police and hired guns have been keeping a careful eye over the voting, which started on Friday- with residents saying troops came to their homes in occupied territories to enforce the ‘vote’.

A Ukrainian journalist has posted a video allegedly showing Russian troops entering the residence of his family before forcing them to vote in 'sham' referendums across occupied territories of Ukraine

A Ukrainian journalist has posted a video allegedly showing Russian troops entering the residence of his family before forcing them to vote in ‘sham’ referendums across occupied territories of Ukraine

‘My family was just forced to vote at gunpoint in Russian cosplay of a “referendum” in southern Ukraine,’ said Maxim Eristavi, journalist and co-founder of Hromadske International, a broadcasting station in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian journalist posted a video purporting to show armed soldiers entering the hallways where his family live and forcing them to vote in favour of joining Russia.

Serhiy Haidai, governor of occupied Luhansk, said some towns under Russian occupation have been entirely sealed off to ensure people vote – with any crosses in the ‘no’ column recorded in a ‘notebook’.

Meanwhile state media reported an unfeasibly high 97 per cent of people in two of those regions – Donetsk and Luhansk – are in favour of joining Russia.

Ballot boxes have also been opened across Russia itself, ostensibly to allow displaced Ukrainians to vote, but in reality offer more opportunities for vote rigging.

Kyiv called out the exercise as a bare-faced attempt by Russia to hold on to occupied territory now threatened by the Ukrainian army’s counter-offensive.

Russian politicians call for Putin’s ‘private army’ to be reinforced in military draft: MoD says National Guard is ‘under strain’ as it tries to enforce sham referendums in Ukraine and quell anti-mobilisation protests in Russia 

ByTom Brown For Mailonline 

Russian politicians are calling for Putin’s ‘private army’ to be reinforced as pressure mounts over the war in Ukraine with more than 2,000 Russians arrested for protesting against mobilisation.

British military intelligence reported Sunday that Russian politicians are calling for more Russians to be mobilised to serve in the National Guard, used to quell protestors and enforce state violence at home.

‘With a requirement to quell growing domestic dissent in Russia, as well as operational taskings in Ukraine, Rosgvardia is highly likely under particular strain,’ said the UK Ministry of Defence in a briefing note.

The Rosgvardia, created in 2016 to fight terrorism and organised crime, is a ‘private army’ whose loyalty is ‘to the president rather than to the state’, according to Stefan Hedlund, a Swedish academic and expert on Russian and Soviet studies. 

The force was recently used to facilitate Russia’s ‘referendums’ in parts of occupied Ukrainian territory, with Western countries calling them a ‘sham’ designed to disguise an illegitimate attempt by Moscow to seize Ukrainian territory.

The Intelligence brief said high-profile Russian nationalist Duma member Aleksandr Khinstein proposed to reinforce the guard and open the door for more units to fight in Ukraine, suggesting the Kremlin is struggling to keep disserts at bay both at home and abroad. 

The Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia), known as 'Putin's private army', are pictured blocking off Moscow's Manezhnaya Square last year. British military intelligence reported that Russian politicians are calling for more Russians to be mobilised to serve in the National Guard

The Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia), known as ‘Putin’s private army’, are pictured blocking off Moscow’s Manezhnaya Square last year. British military intelligence reported that Russian politicians are calling for more Russians to be mobilised to serve in the National Guard

The Rosgvardia, was created in 2016 to fight terrorism and organised crime, but answers directly to Putin and is normally used to suppress descent at home. They are now being deployed in Ukraine, forcing the Kremlin to split its manpower

The Rosgvardia, was created in 2016 to fight terrorism and organised crime, but answers directly to Putin and is normally used to suppress descent at home. They are now being deployed in Ukraine, forcing the Kremlin to split its manpower

high-profile Russian nationalist Duma member Aleksandr Khinstein proposed to reinforce the guard in Ukraine

high-profile Russian nationalist Duma member Aleksandr Khinstein proposed to reinforce the guard in Ukraine

It comes after nearly three-quarters of countries in the United Nations assembly voted on Saturday to reprimand Russia and demand it withdraw its troops shortly after the February 24 invasion that Russia calls a special military operation.

Russia’s military campaign has killed tens of thousands, left some Ukrainian cities wastelands and triggered Russia’s biggest confrontation with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Ukraine’s military said early on Sunday that Russian forces had launched dozens of missile attacks and air strikes on military and civilian targets, including 35 ‘settlements’, in the past 24 hours.

Russia also used drones to attack the centre of the southern city of Odesa, Ukraine’s military said. No casualties were reported.

Russia denies targeting civilians. Its RIA state news agency reported that Ukrainian forces bombed a hotel in the city of Kherson, killing two people. Russian forces have occupied the southern city since the early days of the invasion. 

There has been no immediate response from Ukraine, with MailOnline unable to immediately verify either side’s claims.

The votes on becoming part of Russia were hastily organised after Ukraine recaptured large swathes of the northeast in a counteroffensive this month.

Police detain a demonstrator protesting against mobilisation in St. Petersburg, Saturday

Police detain a demonstrator protesting against mobilisation in St. Petersburg, Saturday

Police detain a man in Saint Petersburg on September 24, following calls to protest against the partial mobilisation announced by the Russian President

Police detain a man in Saint Petersburg on September 24, following calls to protest against the partial mobilisation announced by the Russian President

More than 2,000 people have been detained across Russia for protesting the draft, including 798 people in 33 towns on Saturday, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info

More than 2,000 people have been detained across Russia for protesting the draft, including 798 people in 33 towns on Saturday, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info

Russian law enforcement officers detain a person during an unsanctioned rally

Russian law enforcement officers detain a person during an unsanctioned rally

Nearly half of those detained were arrested in Moscow, at rallies following the partial mobilisation designed to bolster Russia's operation in Ukrain

Nearly half of those detained were arrested in Moscow, at rallies following the partial mobilisation designed to bolster Russia’s operation in Ukrain

Ukrainian officials said people were banned from leaving occupied areas until the four-day vote was over, armed groups were going into homes, and employees were threatened with the sack if they did not participate.

Lavrov, in a news conference following his speech to the assembly in New York, said the regions where votes are underway would be under Moscow’s ‘full protection’ if they are annexed by Russia.

Russia said the referendums offer an opportunity for people in those regions to express their view.

The Group of Seven industrialised economies said they will not recognise the results of the votes. 

A woman is shown evacuating with belongings and protecting her ears after a Russian attack in the frontline city of Kupiansk, in the Kharkiv region, on Saturday

A woman is shown evacuating with belongings and protecting her ears after a Russian attack in the frontline city of Kupiansk, in the Kharkiv region, on Saturday

A man walks with a cane near a bridge over the Oskil River as black smoke rises in the frontline city of Kupiansk

A man walks with a cane near a bridge over the Oskil River as black smoke rises in the frontline city of Kupiansk

Asked if Russia would have grounds for using nuclear weapons to defend annexed regions of Ukraine, Lavrov said Russian territory, including territory ‘further enshrined’ in Russia’s constitution in the future, ‘is under the full protection of the state’.

‘All of the laws, doctrines, concepts and strategies of the Russian Federation apply to all of its territory,’ he said, also referring specifically to Russia’s doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said Russia’s statements on the possible use of nuclear weapons were ‘absolutely unacceptable’ and Kyiv would not give into them.

‘We call on all nuclear powers to speak out now and make it clear to Russia that such rhetoric put the world at risk and will not be tolerated,’ Kuleba said.

Civilians look on during a military training session by the Right Sector close to Lviv, Ukraine, Saturday, Sept. 24

Civilians look on during a military training session by the Right Sector close to Lviv, Ukraine, Saturday, Sept. 24

Civilians holding wooden replicas of rifles take part in a military training organized by the Ukraine

Civilians holding wooden replicas of rifles take part in a military training organized by the Ukraine

A military instructor dressed in ghillie and holding a gun takes part in military training

A military instructor dressed in ghillie and holding a gun takes part in military training

Ukraine has requested an urgent UN Security Council meeting over the referendums, accusing Russia of violating the UN Charter by attempting to change Ukraine’s borders.

Putin on Wednesday ordered the first mobilization since World War Two, sending some Russian men swiftly toward borders, with traffic at frontier crossings with Finland and Georgia surging and prices for air tickets from Moscow rocketing.

More than 2,000 people have been detained across Russia for protesting the draft, including 798 people in 33 towns on Saturday, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info.

Frustration has even spread to pro-Kremlin media, with one editor at the state-run RT news channel complaining that call-up papers being sent to the wrong men, adding that such issues were ‘infuriating people’.

Volodymyr Zelensky tells Russians that panicking Putin is ‘knowingly’ sending citizens to their death to save face for his failing Ukraine war as riot police arrest more than 700 protesters amid fears 1million men will be conscripted 

ByArthur Parasharand Jonathan Roseand Adam Solomons For Mailonline

Volodymyr Zelensky made an appeal to Russians on Saturday evening, saying panicking dictator Putin is ‘knowingly’ sending citizens to their death to save face for his failing Ukraine invasion.

Speaking in Russian during his daily video address, Ukraine’s wartime president called on Moscow’s forces to surrender, saying: ‘You will be treated in a civilised manner… no one will know the circumstances of your surrender’.

It came just hours after Russia passed a law toughening punishments for voluntary surrender and desertion, and as Putin’s riot police arrested more than 700 anti-mobilisation protesters in cities across Russia, including around 300 in Moscow.

Zelensky said: ‘It is better to refuse a conscription letter than to die as a war criminal in a foreign land. It is better to run away from a criminal mobilisation, than to be crippled and then held responsible in court for participating in a war of aggression.

‘It is better to surrender to the Ukrainian army than to be killed in the strikes of our weapons, fair strikes from Ukraine defending itself in this war.’ 

During a protest in Moscow, one brave one-legged woman in a wheelchair faced down shamed troopers with an anti-war placard. A powerful image of anti-mobilisation showed the woman, reportedly attending the peaceful protest in the Chistyye Prudy area, holding a placard up to Putin’s soldiers which translated as: ‘Do you want to be like me?’.

In Russian, Zelensky called on Moscow's forces to surrender, saying: 'You will be treated in a civilised manner... no one will know the circumstances of your surrender'

In Russian, Zelensky called on Moscow’s forces to surrender, saying: ‘You will be treated in a civilised manner… no one will know the circumstances of your surrender’

The one-legged woman could be seen holding a placard up shaming troopers. It read: 'Do you want to be like me?'

The one-legged woman could be seen holding a placard up shaming troopers. It read: ‘Do you want to be like me?’

The brave woman, who was attending an apparent peaceful protest in Moscow, was quickly surrounded by riot police for holding a placard up

The brave woman, who was attending an apparent peaceful protest in Moscow, was quickly surrounded by riot police for holding a placard up 

The one-legged woman could be seen approaching photographers before riot police stepped in

Putin's riot police surrounded the woman and removed her placard

The woman had the placard removed from her by Russian riot police. It is illegal to hold unsanctioned rallies in Russia

A wheelchair-bound participant courageously holds a placard during a rally after opposition activists called for street protests against the mobilisation

A wheelchair-bound participant courageously holds a placard during a rally after opposition activists called for street protests against the mobilisation

Unauthorised protests have broken out in Moscow this afternoon at Putin's decision to call up so many men of the Russian population

Unauthorised protests have broken out in Moscow this afternoon at Putin’s decision to call up so many men of the Russian population

A woman is violently manhandled by two Russian riot police in downtown Moscow as authorities quickly move to stamp out any overt signs of civil disobedience on a day where they arrested more than 730 people

A woman is violently manhandled by two Russian riot police in downtown Moscow as authorities quickly move to stamp out any overt signs of civil disobedience on a day where they arrested more than 730 people

The protesters will likely face severe repercussions for their brave disobedience under new legislation the Kremlin rushed through in the lead up to the mobilisation announcement on Wednesday September 21

The protesters will likely face severe repercussions for their brave disobedience under new legislation the Kremlin rushed through in the lead up to the mobilisation announcement on Wednesday September 21

The courageous woman with bright pink hair had unzipped her bag before pulling the placard out as photographers descended on her before the riot police arrived. 

One Russian officer could later be seen holding the placard which appeared to have been removed from the woman after photographers had gathered around her. 

A rights group claimed that around 730 people were detained across Russia at protests against the mobilisation order today, just three days after Putin ordered Russia’s first military draft since World War Two for the conflict in Ukraine.

The independent OVD-info protest monitoring group said it was aware of detentions across 32 difference cities, from St Petersburg to Siberia.

Protests broke out across central Moscow despite unsanctioned rallies being illegal under Russian law, which also forbids any activity considered to defame the armed forces. 

It comes after Russian couples were pictured being forced to say their goodbyes as hundreds of thousands of army reservists and prisoners are sent to Ukraine.

Train stations and army checkpoints have become the scene for the separations, often involving young couples – and men who don’t want to fight.

Putin’s failing invasion of the neighbouring country has prompted a new partial mobilisation of 300,000 men – including prisoners and even attempts to recruit the dead.

Police officers detain a protester during an unsanctioned rally hosted by the Vesna (Spring) Movement in protest against the military invasion on Ukraine and partial mobilization

Police officers detain a protester during an unsanctioned rally hosted by the Vesna (Spring) Movement in protest against the military invasion on Ukraine and partial mobilization

More than 700 people were detained at the anti-war rallies in Russian cities on Saturday

More than 700 people were detained at the anti-war rallies in Russian cities on Saturday

Russia's partial mobilisation announced on Wednesday will likely be one of his first big logistical challenges, with the hundreds of thousands of reservists being called up needing equipment and training before deployment

Russia’s partial mobilisation announced on Wednesday will likely be one of his first big logistical challenges, with the hundreds of thousands of reservists being called up needing equipment and training before deployment

Military-age men have sought to leave, with flights full and neighbouring countries receiving an influx of Russians, including Georgia where 2,300 private vehicles were waiting to enter at one crossing, regional Russian authorities said

Military-age men have sought to leave, with flights full and neighbouring countries receiving an influx of Russians, including Georgia where 2,300 private vehicles were waiting to enter at one crossing, regional Russian authorities said 

'We were talking to our friends and many are thinking about leaving,' said Daria, 22, after fleeing Russia to Istanbul along with many of her compatriots

‘We were talking to our friends and many are thinking about leaving,’ said Daria, 22, after fleeing Russia to Istanbul along with many of her compatriots

'Not everyone wanted to leave in February. The (mobilisation) decision of September 21 forced many to think about it again'

‘Not everyone wanted to leave in February. The (mobilisation) decision of September 21 forced many to think about it again’

More than 700 people were detained in protests on Saturday against the partial mobilisation, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info

More than 700 people were detained in protests on Saturday against the partial mobilisation, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info

Now that President Vladimir Putin has signed the legislation, servicemen who desert, surrender "without authorisation", refuse to fight or disobey orders can face up to 10 years imprisonment

Now that President Vladimir Putin has signed the legislation, servicemen who desert, surrender ‘without authorisation’, refuse to fight or disobey orders can face up to 10 years imprisonment

A young Russian recruit and his partner kiss outside a recruitment centre in Volgograd today as couples were forced to say goodbye

A young Russian recruit and his partner kiss outside a recruitment centre in Volgograd today as couples were forced to say goodbye

One young woman looks despondent as her boyfriend prepares to enlist in Putin's army following the Russian President's orders on Wednesday

One young woman looks despondent as her boyfriend prepares to enlist in Putin’s army following the Russian President’s orders on Wednesday

Families and loved onewere seen saying goodbye to each other as Russia's partial mobilisation continues under Putin's watch

Families and loved onewere seen saying goodbye to each other as Russia’s partial mobilisation continues under Putin’s watch

Protests in major cities broke out following the Kremlin leader’s announcement of the troop surge, while queues at the nation’s borders have appeared as young men attempt to flee.

While the initial protests were quickly stamped out by Putin’s well-trained domestic security troops, new protests have broken out this afternoon in Moscow.

Images show menacing, helmeted riot police manhandling brave men and women who ventured out into the rain to protest Putin’s mobilisation.  

Soldiers have also been spotted drinking and brawling on their way to basic training. 

European Council president Charles Michel advised EU members yesterday to offer asylum to conscientious objectors leaving Russia to avoid the draft.

Russian goombahs in riot gear were quick to drag away brave protesters on a grey and rainy Moscow day as they arrested more than 730 people

Russian goombahs in riot gear were quick to drag away brave protesters on a grey and rainy Moscow day as they arrested more than 730 people

A mother of one young soldier wipes tears away as he is bussed to a training camp to prepare

A mother of one young soldier wipes tears away as he is bussed to a training camp to prepare

A tearful dad holds his child as he readies to say goodbye and fight on the front lines in Ukraine

A tearful dad holds his child as he readies to say goodbye and fight on the front lines in Ukraine

The EU should be open ‘to those who don’t want to be instrumentalised by the Kremlin’, he said.

‘If in Russia people are in danger because of their political opinions, because they do not follow this crazy Kremlin decision to launch this war in Ukraine, we must take this into consideration’, he told Politico.

Estonian foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu earlier said: ‘A refusal to fulfil one’s civic duty in Russia or a desire to do so does not constitute sufficient grounds for being granted asylum in another country.’ 

The man embraces his mother as police and fellow recruits watched on in Volgograd today

The man embraces his mother as police and fellow recruits watched on in Volgograd today

It came as Ukrainians in Russian-held parts of the country were visited by soldiers and ordered to vote in ‘referendums’ that have been widely condemned by international observers.

One poll branded ‘ridiculous’ saw a supposed 97 per cent in Donetsk and Luhansk in favour of joining Russia.

Ballot boxes have also been opened across Russia itself, ostensibly to allow displaced Ukrainians to vote.

But in reality they offer more opportunities for vote-rigging.

Melinda Simmons, the British Ambassador to Ukraine, said that the outcome of the elections had ‘already been decided’ and described the ‘sham’ referendums as a ‘media exercise designed to pursue further an illegal invasion by Russia’.

The votes nevertheless mark a significant development in the war as the sham results will allow Putin to spin a narrative that any Ukrainian attempts to reclaim those territories is an assault on Russia itself.

That expands the suite of options he can use in response to ‘defend’ his territory – including, perhaps, nuclear weapons.

It would also allow Putin to upgrade his ‘special military operation’ to a full-blown war, expanding his powers to conscript men and punish those who try to quit.

Escaped Russians get off a bus from St Petersburg to Helsinki Airport earlier today

Escaped Russians get off a bus from St Petersburg to Helsinki Airport earlier today

Road travel remains a good option for Russians hoping to avoid Putin's latest mobilisation

Road travel remains a good option for Russians hoping to avoid Putin’s latest mobilisation

Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov lashed out at the US and the West in a rant at the UN about ‘Russophobia’, accusing America of seeking global domination and doubling-down on Moscow’s sham referendums in occupied territories of Ukraine – as Putin’s puppet parliament prepares to rubber-stamp a series of laws formally annexing the breakaway regions.

During a thunderous speech at the UN General Assembly in New York, Lavrov insisted that Russia was ‘right’ to launch its brutal invasion on February 24. 

He used the rostrum to hit back at Washington and its allies after days of Western leaders denouncing Moscow’s aggression against its neighbour, a former Soviet republic which only broke away from decades of Russian rule 30 years ago.

Lavrov raged: ‘The official Russophobia in the West is unprecedented. Now the scope is grotesque. They are not shying away from declaring the intent to inflict not only military defeat on our country but also to destroy and fracture Russia.’

He claimed the US was expanding the Monroe Doctrine – its 19th-century declaration of Latin America as its exclusive sphere of influence – and ‘trying to turn the entire world into its own backyard’.

Lavrov added: ‘Declaring themselves victorious in the Cold War, Washington erected themselves almost into an envoy of God on Earth, without any obligations but the sacred right to act with impunity wherever and wherever they want.’

He also defended Putin’s warped view that people living in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine were in fact really Russian, describing them as people claiming land ‘where their ancestors have been living for hundreds of years.’

‘The West is now throwing a fit’ on the referendums, Lavrov said.

US President Joe Biden and other Western leaders have vowed never to accept results from the ‘sham’ referendums, seeing them as part of an effort to change borders by force. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov bitterly criticised Western nations on Saturday over the Ukraine war, telling the United Nations that the United States and its allies sought to 'destroy' his country

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov bitterly criticised Western nations on Saturday over the Ukraine war, telling the United Nations that the United States and its allies sought to ‘destroy’ his country

People cast their votes in controversial referendums at a hospital in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on September 24. Voting will run from Friday to Tuesday in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, with people asked to decide if they want these regions to become part of Russia

People cast their votes in controversial referendums at a hospital in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on September 24. Voting will run from Friday to Tuesday in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, with people asked to decide if they want these regions to become part of Russia

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