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Tears and hugs for Russians called up to fight in Ukraine

Tears and hugs for Russians called up to fight in Ukraine

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — Russia escalated its military and political campaign Thursday to capture Ukrainian territory, rounding up Russian army reservists to fight, preparing votes on annexing occupied areas and launching new deadly attacks.

A day after President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization to bolster his troops in Ukraine, dramatic scenes of tearful families bidding farewell to men departing from military mobilization centers in Russia appeared on social media.

Video on Twitter from the eastern Siberian city of Neryungri showed men emerging from a stadium. Before boarding buses, the men hugged family members waiting outside, many crying and some covering their mouths with their hands in grief. A man held a child up to the window of one bus for a last look.

In Moscow, women hugged, cried and made the sign of the cross on men at another mobilization point. A 25-year-old who gave only his first name, Dmitry, received a hug from his father, who told him “Be careful,” as they parted.

Dmitry told Russian media company Ostorozhno Novosti he did not expect to be called up and shipped out so quickly, especially since he still is a student.

“No one told me anything in the morning. They gave me the draft notice that I should come here at 3 p.m. We waited 1.5 hours, then the enlistment officer came and said that we are leaving now,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh great!’ I went outside and started calling my parents, brother, all friends of mine to tell that they take me.”

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy, in some of his harshest comments so far in the nearly 7-month-old war, lashed out at Russians succumbing to the pressure to serve in their country’s armed forces and those who haven’t spoken out against the war. In his nightly video address, he switched from his usual Ukrainian language into Russian to directly tell Russian citizens they are being “thrown to their deaths.”

“You are already accomplices in all these crimes, murders and torture of Ukrainians,” Zelenskyy said, wearing a black T-shirt that said in English: “We Stand with Ukraine,” instead of his signature olive drab T-shirt. He said Russians’ options to survive are to “protest, fight back, run away or surrender to Ukrainian captivity.”

Western leaders derided Putin’s mobilization order as an act of weakness and desperation. More than 1,300 Russians were arrested in antiwar demonstrations Wednesday after he issued it, according to the independent…

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