Winter Clock Ticking for Ukraine,Russia09/25 08:13
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- The onset of autumnal weather, with rains making
fields too muddy for tanks, is beginning to cloud Ukraine's efforts to take
back more Russian-held territory before winter freezes the battlefields, a
Washington-based think tank said Sunday.
Russia, meanwhile, pressed on with its call-up of hundreds of thousands of
men to throw into the seven-month war, seeking to reverse its recent losses.
Without control of the skies over Ukraine, Russia is also making increasing use
of suicide drones, with more strikes reported Sunday in the Black Sea port city
The Russian mobilization -- its first such call-up since World War II -- is
sparking protests in Russia, with fresh demonstrations Sunday. In Dagestan, one
of Russia's poorer regions in the North Caucasus, police fired warning shots to
try to disperse more than 100 people who blocked a highway while protesting the
call-up, Russian media reported.
It is also opening splits in Europe about whether fighting-age Russian men
fleeing in droves should be welcomed or turned away.
For Ukrainian and Russian military planners, the clock is ticking, with the
approach of winter expected to make fighting more complicated. Already, rainy
weather is bringing muddy conditions that are starting to limit the mobility of
tanks and other heavy weaponry, according to the Institute for the Study of War.
But the think tank said Ukrainian forces are still gaining ground in their
counteroffensive, launched in late August, that has spectacularly rolled back
the Russian occupation across large areas of the northeast and which also
prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin's new drive for reinforcements.
The partial mobilization has triggered an exodus of men seeking to avoid the
draft -- and sharp differences of opinion in Europe in recent days about how to
deal with them.
Lithuania, a European Union member-country that borders Kaliningrad, a
Russian Baltic Sea exclave, said it won't grant them asylum. "Russians should
stay and fight. Against Putin," Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis tweeted.
His counterpart in Latvia, also an EU member and bordering Russia, said the
exodus poses "considerable security risks" for the 27-nation bloc and that
those fleeing can't be considered conscientious objectors against the invasion.
Many "were fine with killing Ukrainians, they did not protest then," the
Latvian foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, tweeted. He added that they have
"plenty of countries outside EU to go."
Finland also said it intends to "significantly restrict" entry to Russians
entering the EU through its border with Russia. A Finnish opposition leader,
Petteri Orpo, also said fleeing Russian military reservists are an "obvious"
security risk and "we must put our national security first."
Officials in other EU nations, however, say Europe has a duty to help, and
fear that turning away Russians could play into Putin's hands, feeding his
narrative that the West has always hated Russians and that the war is being
waged to safeguard their country against Western hostility.
"Closing our frontiers would fit neither with our values nor our interests,"
a 40-strong group of senators in France said in a statement. They urged the EU
to grant refugee status to Russians fleeing mobilization and said turning them
away would be "a mistake by Europe in the war of communication and influence
that is playing out."
The mobilization is also running hand-in-hand with Kremlin-orchestrated
votes in four occupied regions of Ukraine that could pave the way for their
imminent annexation by Russia.
Ukraine and its Western allies say the referendums in Kherson and
Zaporizhzhia in the south and the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions have no
legal force. The votes are set to wrap up Tuesday but are being dismissed in
Ukraine and the West as a sham, with footage showing armed Russian troops going
door to door to pressure Ukrainians into voting.
Ukraine's Reintegration Ministry said Russia has brought people from
Belarus, Brazil, Egypt, South Africa, Syria, Togo, Uruguay and Venezuela to act
as supposed outside observers. The ministry warned that they "will be
punished," without specifying how.
In cities across Russia, police have arrested hundreds of protesters against
the mobilization order. Women opposed to the call-up protested Sunday in the
Siberian city of Yakutsk. Videos shared by local media showed a crowd of a few
hundred people, mostly women, holding hands and marching in a circle around a
group of police. Police later dragged some away or forced them into police
vans. News website SakhaDay said the women chanted pacifist slogans and songs.
At least 2,000 people have been arrested in recent days for similar
demonstrations around the country. Many of those taken away immediately
received call-up summons.
Other Russians are reporting for duty. Putin and Defense Minister Sergei
Shoigu have said the order applies to reservists who recently served or have
special skills, but almost every man is considered a reservist until age 65 and
Putin's decree kept the door open for a broader call-up.
The Kremlin said its initial aim is to add about 300,000 troops to its
forces in Ukraine, struggling with equipment losses, mounting casualties and
weakening morale. The mobilization marks a sharp shift from Putin's previous
efforts to portray the war as a limited military operation that wouldn't
interfere with most Russians' lives.