Ukraine war comes home to Russians as Putin imposes draft

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MOSCOW - A day after President Vladimir Putin announced a call-up that could sweep 300,000 civilians into military service, thousands of Russians across the country received draft papers on Thursday and some were being marched to buses and planes for training - and perhaps soon a trip to the front lines in Ukraine.

Mr Putin's escalation of the war effort was reverberating across the country, according to interviews, Russian news reports and social media posts. As the day wore on, it became increasingly clear that Mr Putin's decision had torn open the cocoon shielding much of Russian society from their leader's invasion of a neighbour.

Mothers, wives and children were saying tearful goodbyes in remote regions as officials - in some cases, ordinary schoolteachers - delivered draft notices to houses and apartment blocks. In mountainous eastern Siberia, the Russian news media reported, school buses were being commandeered to move troops to training grounds.

Russian officials said the call-up would be limited to people with combat experience. But the net appeared wider, and some men decided it was best to head for the borders.

Ms Yanina Nimayeva, a journalist from the Buryatia region of Siberia, said her husband, a father of five and an employee in the emergency department in the regional capital, had been inexplicably called up. She said he received a summons to an urgent 4am meeting where it was announced that a train had been organised to take men to the city of Chita, southeast of Siberia.

"My husband is 38 years old, he is not in the reserve, he did not serve," Ms Nimayeva said in a video addressed to regional officials.

Despite the Kremlin's crackdown on dissent, protests erupted on Wednesday night across Russia in response to Mr Putin's move, with at least 1,312 people arrested, according to the human rights watchdog OVD-Info. More protests were reported on Thursday, including in Dagestan, an impoverished southern Russian region where anti-draft protesters blocked a federal highway.

"When we fought in 1941 to 1945 - that was a war," one man yelled in a video of an angry crowd widely shared on social media, referring to the Eastern Front of World War II. "And now it's not war, it's politics."

Military-age men clogged airports and border crossings trying to flee, and some ended up in distant cities such as Istanbul and Namangan, Uzbekistan.

"We decided that we don't w...

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