Ukraine War Updates: Zelensky Tells Russians to Protest Mobilization

Live Updates
  • Protests have taken place across Russia after President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization to bolster troop numbers in Ukraine.
  • Putin described his vision of Russia as a country in which solidarity and consensus reigned on a day when at least 1,386 people were arrested in 38 cities, according to human rights group OVD-Info.
  • More than 300,000 people have signed a petition opposing the mobilization decree, as the Kremlin reportedly plans to send an additional one million troops to fight in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to Russian citizens directly, telling them to "fight back" against their leadership.
  • The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a U.S. think tank, said the mobilization "reflected many problems Russia faces in its faltering invasion of Ukraine that Moscow is unlikely to be able to resolve in the coming months."
  • At the United Nations Security Council meeting Thursday, the U.S. and its allies condemned Russia's escalatory actions, while the Russian delegation said the invasion of Ukraine was an "inevitable" response anti-Russian actions from Kyiv.
  • International Criminal Court told the U.N. there is evidence of crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine as Russia continues to claim atrocities witnessed in Bucha were "staged."

The live updates for this blog have ended.

Protests in Russia
In this combination image, Police officers detain protester's following calls to protest against partial mobilisation announced by Vladimir Putin in Moscow, on September 21, 2022, More than 1,300 people have been arrested at demonstrations across Russia against Putin's announcement of a partial mobilisation of civilians to fight in Ukraine and Putin (Top Right), pictured in September 2022. Getty

Zelensky Tells Russians to Protest Mobilization

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the Russian people to protest the actions of the Russian government in his latest address.

Zelensky said Ukraine is changing the course of the war, forcing Russia to change its tactics and draw up even more Russian citizens and resources into the war.

"Russia's decision on mobilization is a frank admission that their regular army, which has been prepared for decades to take over a foreign country, did not withstand and crumbled," he said. "And now, due to mobilization, Russia's war against Ukraine for the majority of Russian citizens is not something on TV or on the Internet, but something that has entered every Russian home."

Zelensky then said he would "explain to the Russians what is happening in Russian."

He said the protests happening in Russian cities is an "indicator" of the "real mood," not just in major urban areas like Moscow and St. Petersburg, but in regions throughout Russia.

"We see that people in Dagestan, in Buryatia, in other national republics and regions of Russia understand that they were simply thrown. Thrown to death," he said.

Zelensky questioned why someone from Dagestanis should die in Kharkiv.

"Because one person in Russia decided so - for all the citizens of Russia," he said. "There is no other reason. That's what he wants," referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He the Russian people now have to make a choice as Russian leadership prepared to "take up to a million men into the army."

"For men in Russia, this is a choice to die or live, to become a cripple or to preserve health," Zelensky said. "For women in Russia, the choice is to lose their husbands, sons, grandchildren forever, or still try to protect them from death, from war, from one person."

In the six months of this war, 55,000 Russian soldiers died and tens of thousands were injured, Zelensky said.

"Want more? No? Then protest. Fight back. Run away. Or surrender to Ukrainian captivity. These are options for you to survive," he said.

Zelensky then spoke to Russian mothers, telling them the children of top Russian officials will not be sent to war.

"Those who make decisions in your country take care of their children," he said. "And they do not even bury your children."

Over 1,500 Cultural Sites Possibly Damaged

Researchers say at least 1,500 Ukrainian cultural heritage sites may have been damaged in the first six months of Russia's war with Ukraine.

The number of potentially impacted sites covered the time period between February 24, when Russia's invasion of Ukraine began, and August 31. The kinds of sites most often impacted by the war appeared to be memorials, monuments, places of worship and burial sites, researchers said.

The research group said most of the suspected damage was reported in the Mariupolskyi, Kharkivskyi, Sievierodonetskyi, Kramatorskyi, and Buchanskyi raions.

The updated number was released on Thursday by researchers with the Virginia Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative and the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. Their updates have been shared by the Conflict Observatory, which is assessing components of the war's impact on Ukraine.

Damage to cultural heritage sites could be investigated as violations of international law under the 1954 Hague Convention. The Conflict Observatory noted in an interactive dataset that both Ukraine and Russia are Hague Convention member states, which means they are required to "'respect' and 'safeguard' cultural property in the event of armed conflict."

By the end of August, researchers said 658 memorials or monuments in Ukraine may have been damaged in the war, and 488 places of worship or burial sites may have also been impacted. More than 100 museums were potentially damaged, as were dozens of heritage buildings, libraries or other archival sites. Twenty sites identified as either archaeological sites or performance centers were also listed among the possibly damaged locations.

The U.S. Department of State responded to the Conflict Observatory's latest report on Thursday, saying the suspected damage "will not be tolerated."

"The sheer scale of Russia's aggression should concern the entire world," the department said on Twitter.

NATO Condemns Russia Referenda, Mobilization

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) said it condemns the referenda the Kremlin announced will be held in Ukraine.

NATO's main decision making body, the North Atlantic Council (NAC) said it condemns, "in the strongest possible terms," the referenda to join Russia that will be held in regions of Ukraine that are controlled by the Russian military.

In reference to the United Nations General Assembly resolution from March 2022, NAC said "no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal."

"Allies do not and will never recognize Russia's illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea," NAC said in a statement.

It said the "sham" referenda in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions of Ukraine have "no legitimacy" and will be a "blatant violation" of the UN Charter.

"NATO Allies will not recognize their illegal and illegitimate annexation," the statement read. "These lands are Ukraine. We call on all states to reject Russia's blatant attempts at territorial conquest."

NAC said the referenda and Russia's partial mobilization constitute a "further escalation of Russia's illegal war against Ukraine."

"We continue to reject Russia's irresponsible nuclear rhetoric," the body said. "Russia bears full responsibility for the war, the immense suffering its aggression is bringing upon the Ukrainian people, as well as the cost of its war including for the Russian people now being mobilised."

The body said Russia "has it in its hands to end the conflict" and called on the Kremlin to immediately stop the war and withdraw from Ukraine.

NATO reaffirmed its "unwavering" support for Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and it's "inherent right to self-defense."

Mobilized Troops to Get Flight Ticket Refunds

Russians who purchased airline tickets before September 21 and are now among those who could be mobilized for military duty amid Russia's ongoing war with Ukraine can get refunds for their tickets, Aeroflot announced Thursday.

The country's largest airline shared instructions for how qualifying ticketholders can receive a refund. The refund option only applies to those covered by Russian President Vladimir Putin's executive order calling for additional troops, and who also purchased their tickets before Putin made his announcement about troops expansion on Wednesday.

Citizens who qualify will need to contact the place they purchased their flight tickets from and show proof that they qualify for Putin's latest mobilization efforts, Aeroflot said in a news release shared on its website. Those who are unable to ask for a refund themselves can have a third party make the request on their behalf.

Travel out of Russia appeared to be increasing in the wake of Putin's announcement. Border officials in Finland said that while cross-border travel hadn't exceeded volume on ordinary weekend days, the number of people attempting to enter Finland on Wednesday did exceed the numbers reported on the same day one week earlier.

There was also a reported rise in sold-out flights and airline ticket prices. Now that Putin's partial mobilization order is in effect, Russian airlines are not permitted to sell tickets to men who qualify for military service, Airways Magazine reported.

Residents in Dagestan Protest Conscription

Residents in Russia continue to protest President Vladimir Putin's plan to mobilize thousands more troops.

An argument broke out in Dagestan as residents were resistant to join Russian forces fighting in Ukraine.

Outside of a military recruitment office, a woman was apparently angry with the men who were resistant to be conscripted into the army.

She said her son has been fighting since the invasion began in February.

The woman said it is her duty to fight for her country, as their grandparents did decades ago.

A man reportedly responded that when his grandfather fought for Russia during World War II, it was justified. He said "in 1941-1945 we fought, it was a war."

He said he will not join the fight in the current conflict because this is not a war, "this is politics."

A recruitment officer reportedly argued that they have to fulfill their duty and fight for the future.

One man replied, "We don't even have a present, what future are you talking about."

There have been other reports on Telegram of more unrest breaking out in Dagestan as people protest the mobilization announcement.

"In the Babayurt district, there are unrest due to mobilization," the telegram channel Ask Rasul said. "People come out to protest. They blocked the federal highway."

The video in the post shows people walking between stalled on a roadway in apparent protest against the military draft.

Russian Police Detained 18 Journalists at Protests

Over a dozen journalists were detained in Russia Wednesday during mass protests against the Kremlin's newly-announced military mobilization plan.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) said there were 18 journalists among the over 1,300 people arrested during the demonstrations that took place in over 40 cities across Russia.

The EFJ said it demands the release of the peaceful protesters and the journalists who were covering the demonstrations.

"These targeted arrests of journalists by the police are a massive censorship operation," EFJ President Maja Sever said. "The Russian authorities are clearly doing everything to hide the wave of protests in Russia. We salute the work of Russian journalists who are taking personal risks to inform the public about the wave of opposition to the war in Ukraine."

The independent rights group OVD-Info tracked the people detained during the protest. OVD-Info said the 18 journalists were identified by the Journalists and Media Workers Union (JMWU).

Most of the journalists on the scene wore press identification and carried professional press cards, the EFJ said. Some were released quickly, while other received tickets that may result in fines or jail time. According to OVD-Info journalist Denis Lipa was beaten in Moscow by police when he showed his press card.

Another journalist, Artem Krieger, was arrested and charged with obstructing traffic during a live broadcast for SOTA-Vision. He was issued with a summons to the military registration office.

An official from JMWU said these types of actions against the media are nothing new.

"This is not the first time we have witnessed the police treating journalists covering protests as protesters themselves," JMWU office secretary Andrei Jvirblis said. "Sometimes this can be explained by the ignorance of police officers, but this time the desire to suppress any information about the protests against the authorities' policy is obvious.

He added that a society deprived of information channels "resembles an organism whose pain reflexes are atrophied."

"Such a situation is fatally dangerous," Jvirblis said.

Russian Air Force to Get New Fighter Jets

The Russian Air Force will be receiving new fighter jets before the end of 2022, according to a report by the Russian state media outlet RT.

RT's report cited a Thursday Telegram post by Rostec, a Russian defense technology company that reportedly shared plans on Wednesday to boost its production efforts. Those plans were announced as Russian President Vladimir Putin said defense companies will be "directly responsible" for meeting his goals for equipment production increases, which he said would be needed as Russia called for a partial mobilization of military reservists.

The new fighter jets Russia will be receiving by the end of this year will be fifth-generation Su-57 jets, the Telegram post cited in RT's report said. Production of these specific fighter jets "will be increased," the post added.

Rostec's plant in eastern Russia is reportedly in the process of being expanded, and a new assembly line is also reportedly being brought into the fold at the plant.

Russia Reportedly Plans to Mobilize 1M Troops

Russia's latest troop mobilization may be a much larger projection than defense officials initially announced, according to a report by the Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

A hidden clause in Russia's mobilization order allows as many as 1 million troops to be called to action, the paper reported. The Kremlin has denied these reports.

Putin first announced the partial mobilization of military reservists during a televised address on Wednesday. The executive order instructing the mobilization to begin was already signed and in effect, Putin said.

Protests began breaking out in Russia in the wake of Putin's announcement. Many Russians also sought paths to leave the country, with elevated traffic levels reported at border crossings in neighboring countries and flights heading out of Russia quickly selling out.

Putin's executive order did not specify how many troops will be called up, but Russia's defense minister said the total would be about 300,000 people.

An unnamed source told Novaya Gazeta the hidden clause had called for 1 million troops. But Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, told the Russian state-owned media outlet RIA Novosti that these reports were "a lie."

Russia Says Invasion of Ukraine Was 'Inevitable'

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov again justified the invasion of Ukraine by accused Kyiv of destroying Russian culture and promoting Nazism.

Lavrov, who showed up late to Thursday's U.N. Security Council meeting, said that he rejects the narrative of "Russian aggression" and accused the Ukrainian government of being "open Russophobes" and "neo-Nazi."

"As I understand it, today's meeting was motivated by the desire of some delegations to discuss the subject of lawlessness in Ukraine," he said. "I think this is very, very timely, because this term, impunity, reflects what has been happening in this country since 2014."

He said the current government came to power as "a result of an armed coup with the direct support of Western powers" and has ignored human rights and freedoms.

Lavrov said the "narrative of Russian aggression as the origin of tragedy" is an attempt to ignore the Ukrainian government's killings of people in the Donbas region who are loyal to Russia.

Lavrov said the Ukrainian government of trying to "oust" and "ban" the use of the Russian language and Russian culture in certain regions. He said Russian books are being destroyed in schools, just as Nazis did.

He defended the recently-announced referendums in Russian-controlled regions because he said Ukraine has become a "completely totalitarian, Nazi-like state."

Lavrov accused Ukraine of using civilians as human shields and blasted western countries for supplying Ukraine with weapons and training soldiers.

He said this is an attempt to drag out fighting "in order to wear down and weaken Russia," adding that this makes the "military machine of the collective west" a party to the conflict.

Lavrov once again called the killings in Bucha a "staged event" used as "propaganda" by the Ukrainian government.

"The fact that it was staged leaves no doubt," he said.

He said Russia has "no confidence" in the work of the International Criminal Court because the court has not taken action to address the alleged crimes committed by Ukraine against Russia.

"We don't expect anything more from this institution or a whole range of other international institutions," he said.

Ultimately, Lavrov said all the points outlined in his speech prove Russia's decision to conduct its "special military operation" in Ukraine was "inevitable."

"We've provided a huge number of facts which show how Ukraine prepared to play rile of anti-Russia as a staging ground to create threats against Russian security," he said. "I can assure you we will never accept this."

Lavrov and the Russian delegation then immediately left the room.

Traffic Growing at Finland-Russia Border

Traffic along the Russian-Finnish border increased Wednesday evening, according to officials with the Finnish Border Guard.

Photographers captured long lines of vehicles waiting to be let into Finland at a border crossing near Vaalimaa. The photos were taken to document border traffic after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of troops to assist with Russia's ongoing war with Ukraine.

Traffic near Finnish border
Cars coming from Russia wait in long lines at the border checkpoint between Russia and Finland near Vaalimaa, on September 22, 2022. OLIVIER MORIN/AFP via Getty Images

Some videos shared on social media also documented lengthy lines at the borders but were actually filmed before Putin's announcement was made and were thus being "taken out of context," Finnish border officials said in a Wednesday tweet. The Finnish Border Guard initially said border traffic "has not changed with the announcement of Russian mobilization," though officials later said there was an uptick in traffic Wednesday night.

Matti Pitkäniitty, the Finnish Border Guard's head of international affairs, said by 8 a.m. local time on Thursday that 4,824 Russians had crossed the eastern border into Finland on Wednesday, an increase from the 3,133 Russians who entered the country on a single day one week earlier. Even so, Pitkäniitty said the number recorded on Wednesday was "lower than [a] normal weekend."

Later Thursday, the Finnish Border Patrol said traffic along Finland's eastern border "has increased somewhat."

"We are well prepared for any changes in traffic volumes," border officials said.

Traffic at Russian-Finnish border
Cars coming from Russia wait in long lines at the border checkpoint between Russia and Finland near Vaalimaa, on September 22, 2022. OLIVIER MORIN/AFP via Getty Images

Nearly 1,400 Detained at Anti-Mobilization Protest

Nearly 1,400 people have been detained in Russia for protesting against the Kremlin's recently announced mobilization to bolster efforts in Ukraine.

In response to this announcement, anti-war protests broke out across Russia.

Almost 1,400 people, including 33 minors, were arrested during the protests in 40 Russia cities, according to independent rights organization OVD-Info.

Detainees were reportedly transported in packed vans between police departments. At least 468 detainees of them were held overnight in 26 police stations and some were forced to stand and were refused water and access to toilets, according to OVD-Info.

There are several reports of police brutality and excessive force used on protestors.

OVD-Info said there were reports of the police making protesters kneel, beating people with batons and throwing them on the ground, reportedly resulting in broken bones, fainting and "smashed heads."

"Overall, officers of at least 32 police departments were reported to use unprovoked force," OVD-Info said in a tweet. "In 7 departments, the police refused to call the ambulance for the battered people, or grant them the permission to consult the doctors who did arrive."

At least 21 people were detained using facial recognition, OVD-Info said. These systems are unregulated under Russian law and here are no restrictions on CCTV footage in public spaces, the organization said.

Protesters Arrested Russia
Police officers detain a man in Moscow on September 21, 2022, following calls to protest against partial mobilisation announced by President Vladimir Putin. ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images

US Says No Sign of Imminent Nuclear Threat

The U.S. does not see an indication of a drastic or imminent nuclear threat at the moment from Russia, a senior White House official said.

Speaking with reporters during a background press call Wednesday, the official, whose named was not disclosed, was asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent partial mobilization of troops amid Russia's ongoing war with Ukraine and concerns about potential nuclear threats.

One reporter asked the official if the U.S. has seen any indication that Putin could do "something drastically imminent" with "nuclear or unconventional weapons."

"We don't see anything in terms of specific information, signals, or moves that would indicate that," the official said. The U.S. has seen Putin "wave around the nuclear card" in the past similar to how he did during a speech on Wednesday, the official said. They noted his language on Wednesday was similar to language he has used in the past.

The U.S. is "watching carefully" for "any signs of potential escalation," the official said.

On the topic of Russia's partial mobilization of reserve troops, the official said the move "indicates a very pressurized environment in Russia" and leaves Putin with the decision of whether to move untrained troops in quickly or postpone their movement to spend time on their training. The latest mobilization announcement is "a reflection of the fact that his campaign in Ukraine is failing" and the result of Russia being "in bad shape," they said.

"So this is a basic problem of arithmetic and time for Putin, and neither of them are really on his side right at the moment," the official said.

International Criminal Court Has Evidence of Crimes in Ukraine

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) recommitted to the court's obligation to investigate war crimes allegedly committed in Ukraine.

At the U.N. Security Council meeting Thursday, Karim Ahmad Khan said it is critical for the law to be seen "on the front line" to protect those suffering in Ukraine and to hold accountable those responsible for that suffering.

Khan said the ICC will continue its investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine.

He said the court will continue its objective and impartial forensic work to "grapple with the facts" and "separate truth form fiction" to build a picture of what happened.

The ICC will send more personnel to investigation allegations in eastern Ukraine next week.

"The process of accountability is not an academic exercise," he said. "It is critical to pierce fog of war."

The work done by the ICC is not a "tool of politics," Khan said, but derives from the purpose of the Rome Statutes and the UN Charter.

He said the scene in Ukraine is "troubling."

Khan said witnessing the variety of destruction, suffering and harm during his three trips to Ukraine "fortifies" his determination and his previous findings that "there are reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the [ICC] have been committed" in Ukraine.

"When I went to Bucha the bodies I saw were not fake," Khan said. "I am deeply concerned about reports of intentional targeting of civilians and forced transfers of civilians out of Ukraine [to Russia]."

Khan said the Council has a collective task to hold those responsible for crimes accountable.

"Justice is not political," he said. "It's a vindication of the fundamental rights of humanity. Echoes of Nuremberg should be heard today."

Khan added that the members of the council should recommit to the obligations of the ICC to investigation cases in Ukraine and beyond.

UN Chief Says Inhumane Acts in Ukraine Will be Investigated

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine shows "no sign of letting up," calling the latest developments "disturbing."

While speaking at the United Nations Security Council Thursday, Guterres warned of the potential for "endless cycle of horror and bloodshed" in Ukraine.

He said the debate of the "once unthinkable" nuclear conflict is "totally unacceptable" and called for member states to recommit to the non-use of nuclear weapons.

He said he is "deeply concerned" about the "so-called referenda" in areas of Ukraine under Russian control.

"Any annexation of a state's territory by another state resulting from threat or use of force is a violation of U.N. Charter and international law," he said.

He blamed Russian attacks on urban areas for deaths, injuries of civilians and said the ongoing conflict continues to cause global energy and food crises. Guterres said U.N. humanitarian efforts should safely continue in Ukraine.

This includes the continued fighting near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant "remains a cause of grave concern."

Talks continue as International Atomic Energy Agency ensure safety at the plant and the surrounding area.

"All attacks on nuclear facilities must end, and the purely civilian nature of such plants must be re-established."

Guterres also said the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights has been documenting the "unacceptable" impact of the war on human rights.

"The reports are a catalogue of cruelty," including summary executions, sexual violence, torture and "other inhumane" treatment against civilians and prisoners of war. He noted the "extremely disturbing" reports of a mass burial site in Izyum.

"All of these allegations should be thoroughly investigated to ensure accountability," he said. "Perpetrators must be held to account in fair and independent judicial proceedings," adding that victims deserve justice, remedy and reparation.

He said the International Criminal Court will ensure effective accountability amid its ongoing investigation into allegation of war crimes in Ukraine.

Guterres added that the recent prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia was a "welcomed development."

Russia Will 'Struggle' to Mobilize Troops, UK Says

Russia will likely "struggle" with "mustering" the 300,000 personnel that Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to mobilize, British intelligence officials said Thursday.

"It will probably attempt to stand up new formations with many of these troops, which are unlikely to be combat effective for months," the UK Ministry of Defence said in its latest update.

"Even this limited mobilisation is likely to be highly unpopular with parts of the Russian population. Putin is accepting considerable political risk in the hope of generating much needed combat power."

The UK's assessment comes one day after Putin made the mobilization announcement in a rare televised address. The move is "effectively an admission that Russia has exhausted its supply of willing volunteers to fight in Ukraine," the report added.

The ministry released the map below indicating areas under Russian control in eastern Ukraine as well as contested areas.

Ukraine Frees 215 People in Prisoner Swap with Russia

Ukraine freed more than 200 people from Russian captivity in a recent prisoner swap, President Volodymyr Zelensky's office announced.

Ukrainian forces returned 215 people, including 124 officers, who were held by Russia. This includes 108 soldiers in the Azov regiment, 188 from Azovstal and Mariupol and eight wounded during the attack in Olenivka.

Overall, Ukrainian servicemembers from the National Guard, navy, army, border guard, national police and employees of the security service were all freed.

"This is the most powerful result in the release of prisoners during the entire period of the full-scale invasion," Head of the Office of the President Andriy Yermak said in a statement.

Additionally, five more citizens were released in an exchange for 55 Russian prisoners. Zelensky said those Russian captives "deserve neither pity, nor sympathy, nor any words at all."

Most of those released are in Ukraine, with the exception of five Azov commanders who are under the personal protection of Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In a video call with the released fighters, Zelensky thanked them for their service to Ukraine

"Congratulations, our men, our heroes, on your return," he said. "We are extremely proud of what you have done for our country."

Ukraine also freed ten foreign prisoners held by Russia during this prisoner exchange, including two American veterans who were captured while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces. The other foreigners were from Great Britain, Morocco, Sweden and Croatia, Zelensky said.

"This is a tremendous success and I am grateful to everyone involved in this operation - everyone who has done this titanic work," Yermak said. "I sincerely congratulate our heroes on their return home."

He added that Ukraine will provide them with all necessary medical, social or other form of aid.

Zelensky called this exchange a "great victory," as many prisoners were sentenced to death before they were rescued.

"I believe that this is truly a great victory for our state, for our entire society," he said. "And most importantly – for the families of our defenders, who will be able to see their loved ones in safety."

He added that Ukraine will "do everything to save everyone who is in Russian captivity."

"We value every life," Zelensky said. "This is what distinguishes us from the enemy."

Traffic Builds at Russian Border as Residents Appear to Flee Mobilization

Six miles of traffic has built up at Russia's border with Georgia the morning after President Vladimir Putin announced a partial military mobilization.

A Newsweek search on Yandex Maps shows a build-up of vehicles near the southern border to the border checkpoint in Verkhnii Lars, suggesting Russians are fleeing in response to the decree that reservists will be called up to fight in Ukraine.

Russians living in Moscow, St Petersburg, the southern city of Pyatigorsk, Mineralniye Vody in Stavropol Krai, Vladikavkaz and Krasnodar have all posted appeals for help on a group on Telegram, set up for travelers who want to cross the border.

"Will agree on a price, we need [assistance] urgently," wrote one St Petersburg resident.

A Telegram user who had made it to Georgia said she had been waiting for her son to join her for hours. "He has been standing in a fierce traffic jam from the Russian side for 4 hours," she wrote.

Russian Enlistment Offices Set on Fire

Military enlistment offices have been set on fire in multiple Russian regions following President Vladimir Putin's decision to mobilize the Russian population.

In Lomonosov, which is part of St. Petersburg, a district military registration and enlistment office was set ablaze last night.

In the city of Gay, in Russia's Orenburg region, another military registration and enlistment office was also set on fire on Wednesday night, damaging a wall, according to a local media report.

Elsewhere, in Nizhny Novgorod, a fire broke out at another military registration and enlistment office. The fire was put out before firefighters arrived, and no injuries were reported, according to local media.

Meanwhile, in Russia's Tolyatti, an individual threw a Molotov cocktail at the main door of a government administration building on Belorusskaya Street.

Dmitry Peskov Responds to Reports Arrested Protesters Given Draft Papers

Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's Press Secretary, responded to reports that arrested anti-war protesters had been given papers drafting them into the military.

Peskov told reporters on Thursday that the practice "does not contradict the law" and "therefore, there is no violation of the law."

His comments came after protesters who had been detained told human rights project OVD-Info that they were handed summons to military registration and enlistment offices at police departments.

At least 1,386 people were arrested in 38 cities across Russia during protests against Putin's Ukraine invasion and his partial mobilization decree, the rights group reported.