Military Conflict Between Russia and Ukraine: “partial” Mobilization, 1% of a Pack of Marmalade, “Talks About the Important,” and What’s Wrong With Navalny.


Olga Shalaeva, writer

In all my years as a responsible citizen, I have not watched Russian propaganda TV channels and have spoken out against the regime. Instagram, Facebook, Telegram and other foreign news and anti-propaganda Russian publications were my priority sources of information. More than two hundred days ago, when the news broke in the early morning that Russia had attacked Ukraine, no one could believe it, thinking it was “fake news.” In this article, dedicated to 250 days after the start of Russia’s armed invasion of the territory of Ukraine, I will talk about the political situation in Russia and the events related to the military conflict.

Mogilization in Russia

“Partial” mogilization (a new word in the dictionary of anti-Putin journalists, formed from “grave” + “mobilization”) – a large-scale mobilization of all men in Russia began on Sept. 21, 2022, after the issuance of President Vladimir Putin’s decree with a secret last paragraph. Putin needs cannon fodder to fill the “holes” in the defense created after just a few weeks of the Ukrainian army’s victorious liberation of the occupied territory by the Russian forces. In fact, all men are sent to the front, and it does not matter whether he is the only breadwinner in the family or has a disability. There is information that even pensioners who previously served in the military are sent summons, although this is illegal. Tankers are given rusty machine guns while saying, “you will sit in the tank anyway” (source SVTV NEWS). And you call this the “Second Army of the World”? In terms of numbers, it may be the second, but in terms of armament and organization, the first from the end is for sure – mothers of the mobilized Russian men have to take microloans to buy military clothes, socks, packed lunches, and sometimes even bulletproof vests because the military personnel can not supply every soldier with all essentials (corruption is a huge problem in Russian military).

Putin also made amendments to the law on military service concerning desertion and voluntary surrender. Now the punishment is up to 10 years; their participation in the “special military operation on the territory of Ukraine” ends only “until the special military operation is over,” according to the contract. It turns out that Russian men have only two options. The first is to go to the front and die there, and then his family will receive ₽3 million rubles ($50,000 USD) after his death (update from BOTTAK Belsat TV: wives of the mobilized from Yamal just got first payments for their spouses – ₽790 rubles – a bit more than $10, this is how much the Russian government pays for the absence of a bread-winner in the family). The second option is to refuse to participate in a military operation and be punished for it, but also the life and peace of life of Ukrainian citizens will be preserved, and these Russian men will remain humans until the end of their days.

Before the announcement of mobilization, the Russian Army was recruiting people who were in places of deprivation of liberty – prison. For participating in the war for at least six months, they are promised freedom, and in case of death, they will be solemnly buried on the next “alley of glory to the heroes of Russia.” Imagine that all these people were given a complete set of weapons, and now they are at the front. And believe me, they will not fight at the front. It is easier to hide in the bushes for half a year and eventually get freedom. Gang leaders with operational skills are among these criminals who have been called to war. On Sept. 28, 2022,  thirteen criminals fled from the military unit of the occupied city of Kherson and left the detachment without permission, taking grenades, firearms, and so on. “Extremely dangerous, they have combat and operational experience, they are suspected of a series of grave and especially grave crimes” – an excerpt from orientation for law enforcement agencies. And anyway, Putin will protect us, right?

Telegram channels of independent news broadcasters post videos of men stopped on the streets of big Russian cities by the police, and military commissariats give them draft cards right away. There are also cases when the security forces kidnap men, then the police take away their documents and explain nothing. Traffic police officers stop cars on highways and try to shove summons on male drivers. Military commissariats gather in front or inside residential buildings and alcohol stores. In large cities such as St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk and 37 other cities, rallies were held against mobilization. According to Meduza – a cross-platform media project recognized by the Russian government as a “foreign agent” on the country’s territory – 1,300 people were detained (maybe more). Many videos on the network show how riot police beat protesters during detention. And what is even worse is most males who participated in the protests were issued summonses to the military registration and enlistment office: “Against the war? Here is a summons for you; go to the front since you’re so perky.” The protesting Russian citizens want to reach out to the state, which does not see their bloody tears or hear their painful cries. The most exciting thing is that those who detain the protesters do not understand that they are twisting the arms of those who protect them and trying to stop them from being sent to the “meat grinder.” Riot police, after all, are also men of military age and fit for service. 

In countries with a rigid dictatorship, it is tough to obtain information, and much of it is unreliable. Limiting access to various sources of information and suppressing freedom of expression, and in general, the ability to think critically, allows one to maintain his warm place under the sun. This is why the rallies in Russia are so harshly dispersed. I will tell you this: the regime cannot afford even the slightest doubt about its legitimacy. Just imagine: a man is standing at a solitary picket with a poster “No War, Glory to Ukraine!” Passers-by look at the poster and start thinking: “Why is this man against the war? Why does a person call the “special operation” a war?” The passer-by begins an internal conflict between what the propaganda has been putting into his brain for so long and what he has just seen. The passer-by starts to wonder if the “uncles on TV” are telling him the truth because if it were the absolute truth, then this person would not be standing here with a poster. He begins to think that there is something wrong here. Then he sees a different picture: those who openly express their dissatisfaction with government policy are beaten by riot police and imprisoned for up to 10 years. The passer-by understands that if he opens his mouth, the same thing will happen to him, so he keeps everything to himself so as not to harm himself and his family. Americans cannot understand why the Russians cannot unseat Putin, but it takes being born Russian and living in Russia for a long time to see why.

Lithuania, Finland and several other countries of the European Union have officially declared that they will not accept refugees from Russia. Still, one thing needs to be clear: the regime in Russia is not as easy to overthrow as it seems.

“… The repressive apparatus is huge. This is an army of trained and armed law enforcement officers and others – 5 million security officials who are ready to fight to the last “for Putin,” for their own well-fed present and future. For years, the Kremlin with petrodollars has been buying their loyalty.” (source:

P.S. Petrodollars = petroleum + dollars (money Russian elites get from the oil industry)

Therefore, the small protesting soldiers, who still do not have any connections in the government, will, unfortunately, be mercilessly crushed at the slightest attempt to resist. 

Double Standards of “Z-zombies”

Before mobilization, everyone wrote to my mother that “your daughter better stop writing all these posts on social networks, why all this negativity? You need to imagine roses around you,” and so on. And now there are no more portraits of Putin on their smartphone wallpapers, and now they call my mother asking questions about how she took me out of Russia, how Olya got to America and where to run. On the Russian land borders with Georgia and Kazakhstan, kilometer-long queues of cars have formed, the passengers trying to leave the country and escape from military duties with which they disagree. Of course, I can perfectly understand why they behave the way they do. They were deceived by the state, which finally revealed its true appearance. But at the same time, this can be called “double standards.” Before, they did not worry about their family because this did not directly concern them; no one (conditionally) touched their sons, husbands, sons-in-law and grandfathers. Due to the panic in society, a #безпаники (#nopanic) flash mob has appeared on the Russian social network VKontakte, in which pro-Kremlin bloggers are trying to calm Russians. They emphasize that only 1% of the total mobilization resource will go to the front. In the photographs, bloggers draw an analogy with a cosmetic bag, a pack of french fries, or marmalade, and, as it were, show that 300,000 out of 25 million men from a military reserve are not so many, not as scary as everyone thinks. I was horrified by this trend: every person is essential, and comparing human lives with a pack of marmalade is already beyond inhuman.

“Talks About the Important” – Lessons About Patriotism, but Who Knows? 

What is essential for totalitarian and authoritarian regimes? That the people do not rebel and everyone thinks the same way or does not think at all. To make the regime feel calm, it turns  people into a faceless gray obedient mass, which is too weak morally even to try to go against the government. The institution of education lays the foundations for socialization outside the family. This is the next stage in the development of the child. Therefore, the regime invests so much money and propaganda in schools, universities and other educational institutions, because through them, it is easiest to carry out an operation to “dumb down” the future generation. By the way, all textbooks must be approved by the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation, which heavily monitors their “reliability” and how convenient the material written in them is for the regime. Another main education task in totalitarian states is killing children’s critical thinking ability.

Since September of this year, in Russian schools, colleges and universities, every morning of the first school day begins with the “Raising the Flag” ceremony to the anthem, and at the end of every school week, the “Descent of the Flag” ceremony. In addition to obligatory class hours, “Talks About the Important” appeared. The Academy of the Ministry of Education of Russia published information about the project on its website, including methodological recommendations and other materials. Here is how the Academy writes what these “talks” are all about:

“In all schools of the country, the school week will begin with a class hour, ‘Talks About The Important,’ dedicated to various topics that concern modern children. Patriotism and civic education, historical education, morality, ecology, etc., will become the central themes of ‘Talks About The Important.’” 

Sounds pretty harmless and even tempting. The topics of these lessons do not excite the typical Russian teenager at all. The teacher says that Russia is a country of opportunities and how good it is for older adults to live in the Moscow region (and it does not matter that the rest of Russia is rotting, and pensions are not even enough for what is necessary). In fact, these “conversations” can be called lectures of sick patriotism. “Talks About The Important” is another brainwashing and an extra useless hour in the life of a Russian student.

In my opinion, the primary purpose of all these extra meaningless lessons and ceremonies is not even that they have the opposite effect but that, in any case, time is deliberately taken away from students so that they do not have time to think about something else and independently develop themselves and their worldview. Busier with useless things and less time for valuable things, and when you have little time for self-development, you just let the system educate you. And so it turns out to be a society where everyone thinks the same way.

Bonus: Is Navalny a “Gray” Personality?

Since the outbreak of the war, Russians have seen a lot of news about mysterious deaths: Ravil Maganov, chairman of the board of directors of the Russian oil company Lukoil, fell out of a Moscow hospital window, Vladislav Avaev, a former vice president of Gazprombank, first killed his wife and daughter, and then herself (according to the official version – suicide), the daughter of Alexander Dugin – the head of the International Eurasian Movement – died in the explosion of a car that belonged to her father. There are many other cases of murder of officials and “supporters” of the government. After all these murders, you start to wonder, why is Alexei Navalny, who is now in a Russian prison, still alive? Is the government afraid of him? After all, it costs nothing to simulate the situation that Navalny was stabbed to death with a homemade knife by a crazy prisoner. Since the authorities have all the resources to implement any plan, they can let fantasies roam. As soon as the regime ceases to need someone, it eliminates them, not Mr. Navalny. Strange, is it not?

In 2021, there was a lot of news about the constant leak of data from Navalny’s supporters and those who participated in rallies in his support. The investigator in the Navalny case came to my house once and gave me a small piece of paper with his phone number. He suggested that I come to the police station to write a complaint about Navalny. Of course, I did not go because this data leak was not officially confirmed, and this whole circus seemed like another attempt to remove Navalny from the Russian political environment.

When Navalny was imprisoned, many said that he would not last long there: the murder of Boris Nemtsov was an example of how quickly the authorities crack down on uncomfortable people. The authorities can easily remove anyone anytime, but Navalny is a unique case; even death bypasses him! So much time has passed, and the only bad news about him is that he is constantly sent to solitary confinement and isolation, and there are even letters on the net that he sends from prison. And the last – the strangest of the whole story! Such letters with outspoken criticism of the authorities and threats in their direction are simply allowed by the employees of the detention center to be sent to his supporters, who publish them on social media platforms. What could all this mean? There are two versions to this.

The first version is that Navalny works for the Kremlin, and Navalny will become Putin No. 2 after Putin leaves. Navalny has made a name for himself on the world political stage through his films about Putin’s palaces after the attempted poisoning of “Novichok” by the Federal Security Service (FSB), and generally as Russia’s only pro-democracy fighter. And now,  remember how adequate Putin was in his first term. Now his rhetoric conflicts with what he said in his first term as president. It seems that Putin 22 years ago and Putin now are two different people. And if we assume that Navalny becomes president, the world will also think that there has finally been a change of power in Russia; you can exhale. And then you already know what will happen.

When people, mostly the younger generation, went to rallies organized by Navalny’s team, most of the protesters were taken to the police stations, had administrative and even criminal cases filed against them, and then passed on information about the “offenders” to educational institutions or their employers. There were cases where some were expelled from universities because of participation in rallies or simply because they were against the regime. Doesn’t it look like these rallies were a simple way for the state to identify ones dissatisfied with the regime among the younger generation?

Version two – Navalny is still alive because the authorities need him to maintain its legitimacy within the country. According to the Russian governmental statistics agency (Rosstat), 24% of households in cities and 43.5% in rural areas do not have access to the Internet. As a result, the only source of information becomes “one TV in the area.” Navalny on TV is a Western agent and rowdy. In general, propagandists on television try not to discuss the one “whose name cannot be pronounced.” At the same time, Internet users in Russia who are against the regime constantly read news about Navalny and his team and his prison letters. When his supporters read this, they get a portion of moral support because at least someone thinks the same way as they do. But if you look at it from a different angle and imagine that Navalny would “accidentally die” in prison, this will cause a lot of unrest among the opposing part of the population. If Navalny is killed, I do not think the opposition will stand aside, especially those who live in large cities and the capital. And then a rebellion will begin, a revolution in the future, and this will destroy the Putin regime, which may be the war’s end.

In conclusion, I want to add that I am in no way trying to offend or humiliate anyone, and I worry about Russian families. Among my acquaintances, there are cases when their boyfriends/husbands/grandfathers were taken to the front; they pray that they will return home alive or at least not severely harmed. And now, according to tradition: “Glory to Ukraine, there is no war for sure, and see you soon in sugar paradise where there are no sanctions.”