Zelenskyy calls on Russians to 'protest' and 'fight back' against Putin's draft if they 'want to survive'

Zelenskyy calls on Russians to 'protest' and 'fight back' against Putin's draft if they 'want to survive'
·3 min read
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks as he and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson give a press conference on August 24, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.Alexey Furman/Getty Images
  • Zelenskyy called on Russians to "fight back" against Putin's draft.

  • "Protest. Fight back," Zelenskyy said. "These are your options if you want to survive."

  • Putin announced a partial mobilization on Wednesday, calling up 300,000 reservists.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday urged Russians to "fight back" against Russian President Vladimir Putin's mobilization of tens of thousands of reservists.

"55 thousand Russian soldiers died in this war in six months. Tens of thousands are wounded and maimed. Want more? No? Then protest. Fight back. Run away. Or surrender to Ukrainian captivity. These are options for you to survive," Zelenskyy said during his nightly address.

"Russian mothers! Have no doubt that the children of the top officials of your state will not be sent to the war against Ukraine. Those who make decisions in your country take care of their children. And they do not even bury your children," Zelenskyy added.


Putin announced a partial military mobilization on Wednesday, calling up 300,000 reservists. The move was politically risky, and has already seen segments of the Russian public express fierce opposition. Anti-war demonstrations across Russia resulted in over 1,400 arrests on Wednesday alone, per OVD-Info, an independent protest monitoring group.

"Protests against mobilization took place in the cities of Russia — albeit not massive, but they took place. And they take place. And this is an indicator. Not only in Moscow and St. Petersburg. We know the real mood in the regions of Russia," Zelenskyy said in his address.

There have also been numerous reports of Russians fleeing the country because of Putin's draft, causing airline tickets to sellout or skyrocket in price as well as traffic jams at the borders of neighboring countries like Georgia.

Though Zelenskyy said 55,000 Russians have been killed in Ukraine since the war began, it's difficult to provide a precise death toll. In August, the Pentagon said the US estimates that Russia has suffered up to 80,000 casualties in Ukraine.

Losses of that scale show Putin is facing a serious manpower problem, which is largely what prompted the partial mobilization. Meanwhile, Ukraine has recaptured a significant chunk of territory after launching a counteroffensive in the north and south in recent weeks.

Western leaders and officials have said that Putin's mobilization is proof that Russian forces are failing in Ukraine.

Similarly, Zelenskyy on Thursday said, "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. 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."

The Russian government has said that 300,000 reservists are to be called up, but a report from Novaya Gazeta Europe suggested that a secret clause in the mobilization decree allows for one million to be drafted. The Kremlin denied this report.

Touching on this in his remarks, Zelenskyy said, "The Russian leadership is preparing to take up to a million men into the army - this is the key thing they are now silent about."

Zelenskyy said it's time for Russians to choose.

"For men in Russia, this is a choice to die or live, to become a cripple or to preserve health. 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," he said.

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