'How to Break Arm' Becomes Top Google Trend as Russians Face Conscription

Google searches for "how to break an arm at home" surged in Russia after President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of the population to fight in Ukraine.

The Russian president said conscription would only be applied to reservists, with the decree taking effect on Wednesday.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who spoke after Putin's address to the nation, said 300,000 men with "previous military experience" would now be called up.

Shortly after Google searches for "как сломать руку в домашних условиях," or "how to break an arm at home," exploded across Russia, sparking speculation some Russians could take extreme measures to avoid fighting in Ukraine.

Putin orders partial Russian mobilization for Ukraine
Ukrainian soldiers sit on infantry fighting vehicles as they drive near Izyum, eastern Ukraine on September 16, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Putin has ordered a partial Russian mobilization following a successful Ukrainian counter-attack. JUAN BARRETO/AFP/GETTY

Google Trends ranks search terms from zero to 100 over a period of time, with zero representing the point of least interest and 100 the most.

According to Trends data for the past seven days there were zero recorded searches for "how to break an arm at home" at 2 a.m. ET, when Putin's began his address. This doesn't literally mean there were no searches for the words, just that the amount was so low the data couldn't be quantified.

However, by 4 a.m. ET this had surged to 38 out of a possible 100, showing a dramatic increase in searches for the phrase.

During his address Putin said a partial mobilization would be "fully adequate to the threats we face, namely to protect our homeland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity, to ensure the security of our people and people in the liberated territories."

He warned NATO countries that Russia has "various means of destruction" available to it, in a possible allusion to nuclear weapons.

Putin added Russia would "use all the means at our disposal" if "the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people."

On Tuesday, authorities in four partially Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine said they would hold referendums on formally joining the Russian Federation.

Polling is due to start on Friday in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, though Western powers have rejected its legitimacy.

Speaking at the White House, Jake Sullivan, Biden's national security adviser, condemned what he called "sham referenda" which "will be manipulated."

He added: "Let me be clear, if this does transpire ... the United States will never recognize Russia's claims to any purportedly annexed parts of Ukraine. We will never recognize this territory as anything other than a part of Ukraine."

If Russia formally annexes parts of occupied Ukraine it would allow Putin to present the war to the Russian public as a defense of sovereign Russian territory, rather than external aggression.

Protests against the partial mobilization have been planned for Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. local time, in cities across Russia. Previous demonstrations against Putin's invasion of Ukraine have been brutally suppressed.

Update 9/21/22; 7:10 a.m. EDT: This article was updated to add context.