KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A young man shot a Russian military officer at point-blank range Monday in an enlistment office, an unusually bold attack that reflected resistance to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to mobilize hundreds of thousands of soldiers. extra men wage war on Ukraine.
The shooting comes after scattered arson attacks on enlistment offices and protests in Russian cities against the military call-up led to at least 2,000 arrests. Russia seeks to bolster its military as its Ukrainian offensive bogs down.
During the attack in the Siberian city of Ust-Ilimsk, 25-year-old resident Ruslan Zinin walked into the enlistment office saying “no one will fight” and “we’re all going to go home now,” according to local media.
Zinin was arrested and officials swore a severe sentence. Authorities said the military commander was in intensive care. A witness quoted by a local news site said Zinin was in a room full of people called to fight and that troops from his area were heading for military bases on Tuesday.
Protests have also erupted in Dagestan, one of Russia’s poorest regions in the North Caucasus. Local media reported that “several hundred” protesters took to the streets in its capital, Makhachkala, on Tuesday. Videos have circulated online showing dozens of protesters grappling with police sent to disperse them.
Protests also continued in another of Russia’s North Caucasus republics, Kabardino-Balkaria, where social media videos showed a local official attempting to address a crowd of women. Analysts say Russian regions with large minority populations – such as Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria – are likely to bear the brunt of the country’s rush to mobilize.
Concerns are growing that Russia may seek to escalate the conflict – including the potential use of nuclear weapons – once he completes what Ukraine and the West see as illegal referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine.
Voting, in which residents are asked whether they want their regions to become part of Russia, began last week and ends Tuesday, on anything but free or fair terms. Tens of thousands of residents had already fled the areas amid months of fighting, and footage shared by those who remained showed armed Russian troops going door to door to pressure Ukrainians to vote .
“Every night and every day there are inevitable shellings in Donbass, under the roar of which people are forced to vote for Russian ‘peace’,” Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko said on Monday.
Russia is widely expected to declare the results in its favor, a step that could see Moscow annexing the four regions and then defending them as its own territory.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that no date had been set for the regions to be recognized as part of Russia, but it could be within days.
Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, said Russia would pay a high, though unspecified, price if it followed through on veiled threats to use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine.
“If Russia crosses this line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia. The United States will respond decisively,” he told NBC.
Elsewhere, the UK government on Monday imposed sanctions on 92 companies and individuals it says are involved in organizing referendums in occupied Ukraine. British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called the votes on joining Russia “a bogus referendum held at the barrel of a gun”. He said they “follow a clear pattern of violence, intimidation, torture and forced evictions”.
Meanwhile, Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko held an unannounced meeting Monday in the southern Russian city of Sochi and said they were ready to cooperate with the West – “if they treat us with respect,” Putin said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday that Putin had told Turkey’s president last week that Moscow was ready to resume negotiations with Ukraine but had “new conditions” for a ceasefire.
The Kremlin last week announced a partial mobilization – its first since World War II – to add at least 300,000 troops to its forces in Ukraine. The move, a radical departure from Putin’s previous efforts to portray the war as a limited military operation, proved unpopular in the country.
Thousands of Russian men of fighting age have flocked to Russia’s airports and land border crossings to avoid being called out. Protests have erupted across the country and Russian media have reported a growing number of arson attacks on military enlistment offices, including one that hit the southern town of Uryupinsk on Monday.
Meanwhile, the first batches of new Russian troops mobilized by Moscow have started arriving at military bases, the British Ministry of Defense said on Monday, adding that tens of thousands had been called up so far.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Facebook on Monday that the Ukrainian military is stepping up efforts to retake “all Ukrainian territory” and has drawn up plans to counter “new types of weapons” used by Russia. He did not specify.
An overnight drone strike near the Ukrainian port of Odessa sparked a massive fire and explosion, the military said on Monday. It was the latest drone attack on the key southern city in days, and hit a military installation, setting off munitions. Firefighters struggled to contain the blaze.
New Russian shelling hit near the Zaporozhzhia nuclear power plant, according to Zelenskyy’s office. Towns near the plant were fired on nine times by rocket launchers and heavy artillery.
Russia also continued to strike the Kharkiv region in eastern Ukraine, which Kyiv says has seen an intensification of shelling and missile strikes since the Ukrainian counteroffensive made significant gains there. this month. At least seven civilians, including a 15-year-old girl, were killed Monday in a rocket attack on the town of Pervomayskiy, the governor and emergency services reported.
In Ukraine’s industrial Donbass region, a Russian strike rocked the city of Kramatorsk, the headquarters of Ukrainian troops, on Monday evening, damaging a residential building.
In the eastern Ukrainian town of Izium, which Russian forces fled this month after a Ukrainian counter-offensive, Margaryta Tkachenko is still reeling from the battle that destroyed her home and left his family on the brink of starvation without gas, electricity, running water or the internet.
“I can’t predict what will happen next. Winter is the scariest. We have no wood. How are we going to heat? she asked.
Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia, Lori Hinnant in Izium, Ukraine, Joanna Kozlowska in London and Yesica Fisch in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, contributed to this report.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine