Moscow began its mobilization of additional troops on Thursday to bolster its offensive in Ukraine, after authorities announced that thousands of people had come forward voluntarily, and despite many Russians fleeing the country to avoid being forced to fight.
In images spread on social networks after President Vladimir Putin ordered the mobilization of reservists the day before, hundreds of Russian citizens can be seen responding to military calls.
The call-up follows severe setbacks for Russian forces in September following the Ukrainian counter-offensive in the north-east and east of the country. And it coincides with the fact that several Ukrainian territories controlled by Moscow will vote to be annexed by Russia.
The Russian military said on Thursday that nearly 10,000 people had volunteered in the last 24 hours to be mobilized.
In an address to the nation the day before, Putin ordered the partial mobilization of reservists and said he was willing to use "All the means" of his arsenal against the West, whom he accuses of wanting "destroy" to Russia.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the international community on Thursday to hold Russia accountable at a UN Security Council meeting on abuses in Ukraine.
"We cannot let President Putin get away with it"declared the head of US diplomacy.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected the accusations and called for the Western-backed government in kyiv to be punished instead.
"The United States and its allies, with the collusion of international human rights organizations, have been covering up the crimes of the kyiv regime"Lavrov replied.
"voting" of annexation
This diplomatic confrontation coincides with the "referendums" which, from Friday to Tuesday, will hold four Ukrainian regions under full or partial control of Moscow to be annexed by Russia.
Despite the outrage aroused in the West, the pro-Russian authorities installed in these territories reiterated that the trials were going to take place.
"The vote starts tomorrow and nothing can stop it"Vladimir Saldo, head of the occupation administration of the Kherson region, told Russian television.
The electoral entity of the pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk reported that "for security issues"the consultation would be organized almost door to door, "in front of the houses"for four days and the polling stations would only open "the last day"on September 27.
Former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and current number two of the country’s Security Council repeated on Telegram that the regions of Lugansk, Donetsk (east), Kherson and Zaporizhia (south) "will integrate Russia".
And then he stated that his country was prepared to carry out a nuclear attack against the West if necessary: missiles "Russian hypersonics are capable of reaching their targets in Europe and the United States much faster" than Western weapons.
Russian military doctrine foresees the possibility of resorting to nuclear attacks if the territories considered Russian by Moscow are attacked, which could be the case of the annexed areas.
Of course, Moscow turns a deaf ear to international criticism, beginning with that of the US president, Joe Biden, who in the United Nations General Assembly said that Putin’s war "extinguishes Ukraine’s right to exist". After him, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, urged the world to "punish" to Russia.
On the ground, the bombing continues.
Nine missiles fell on the city of Zaporizhia (south), under Ukrainian control, and according to local authorities they hit a hotel and caused at least one death.
Donetsk separatists (east) accused kyiv of bombing a market, killing six people. The local press broadcast images of a burnt-out bus and a corpse on the road.
"I don’t want to die"
Russia confirmed the arrival of 55 prisoners of war exchanged with Ukraine, in the largest exchange since the beginning of the invasion.
President Zelensky welcomed the release of 215 Ukrainians, including chiefs of the defense of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol (southeast), a symbol of the Ukrainian resistance and Moscow describes as "neo-Nazis".
But many of these prisoners were "brutally tortured" during his captivity and "absolutely everyone" "need psychological rehabilitation"said several senior officials in kyiv.
In Russia, the announcement of the mobilization sparked multiple demonstrations throughout the country, and at least 1,332 people were arrested.
Many media also reported that there was an avalanche of attempts to leave the country.
In nearby Armenia, at the Yerevan airport, Russians admitted fleeing the mobilization. Dmitri, 45 years old and a small bag in his hand, explained that he had left his wife and his children in the country.
"I don’t want to die in this senseless war. It’s a fratricidal war"he assured, preserving his anonymity.
Faced with this stampede, Germany said it was willing to welcome deserters from the Russian army "threatened with severe repression".