By Josep Lluis del Alcázar, a leader of Internacionalist Struggle (Spanish State) and the IWU-FI*.
The Ukrainian military counter offensive in September has allowed the recovery of more than 8000 km2 of territory. Russia’s hasty withdrawal from the area of Kharkiv, abandoning military equipment, provoked controversial reactions in Russia. From sectors demanding that Putin decree a state of war and general mobilisation, to those publicly demanding measures against the officers commanding the Russian troops, and 84 councillors calling for Putin’s resignation.
The Russian retreat, the second after the abandonment of the Kiyv front, trapped Putin in his own contradictions. In February he refused to declare a state of war for fear of a popular backlash. Recruitment problems became a nightmare for Putin. To the extent that he had to turn to the Wagner Group, a mercenary company also active in Syria, to recruit common prisoners. They activated direct recruitment in Russia’s poorest and most peripheral areas, but the numbers were manifestly insufficient for the war effort.
The level of desertions from the army has been rising. The very contracts signed by those who enlist to go to the front allow for unilateral termination of the contract in peacetime, and there is supposedly no war. There is complete demoralisation among Russian troops who do not understand why they have to fight those they have always considered brothers and even have blood ties. On the contrary, the moral factor has always been high on the side of the Ukrainian people who united to defend their country, their land, their homes, against an invasion by a capitalist power that seeks to dominate them.
On 20 September the Russian Duma amended the penal code to stiffen the penalties for desertion or surrender, to force soldiers to fight. It also introduces articles such as general mobilisation, martial law and the state of war. On Wednesday Putin imposes by decree the mobilisation of 300,000 reservists and warns that he is ready to defend Russia with everything, including nuclear weapons.
But the reaction to the partial mobilisation was swift, with demonstrations against Putin’s decree taking place in 40 cities across Russia. The response was repression, with over 1400 arrests. Another popular reaction is the growing queues for tickets to travel to neighbouring countries to avoid a possible call for war.
Putin is also accelerating in all occupied territories in the Donbass region (Lugansk and Donetsk), Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – new referendums between 23 and 27 September to approve annexation to the Russian Federation. Putin already did this in 2014 over Crimea. With this fraudulent manoeuvre he intends to justify that it is Russian territory and any attack on this area could be considered as “an attack on Russia”. We reject such fraudulent referendums. These territories are part of the Ukrainian nation and have become enclaves of Russia under military occupation. As was the case with Crimea.
The IWU-FI call to multiply solidarity with the Russian demonstrators who oppose Putin’s criminal policy. No more repression of protest in Russia. For the immediate release of political prisoners and of hundeds of people arrested for protesting against the war in Ukraine.
We demand European governments recognise the right of asylum for Russian soldiers who leave the front line and for opponents of Putin’s regime.
We reaffirm our solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their struggle against the Russian invasion. We will continue to support the Ukrainian political and trade union left who are fighting the Russian invader without backing the Zelensky government and NATO.
22 September 2022