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I Wonder If Putin Wishes He Had Never Invaded Ukraine

We keep hearing about Russian men fleeing the country overland and by air to Turkey, Armenia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan (98,000), Finland and the rest of the EU (66,000) and Georgia (53,000) rather than serve in Putin’s bloody and deranged war against Ukraine. But I’ve been wondering if it’s just something the western media is hyping up and if it’s just a few hundred men or a few thousand men. This morning, the NY Times reported that so far at least 200,000 Russians have left. “The mobilization,” wrote Matthew Bigg, “could pull as many as 300,000 civilians into military service, from what Russian officials have said is a pool of some 25 million draft-eligible adults on their rolls, suggesting that the departures, though unusual, may not prevent the Kremlin from achieving its conscription goals… The rapid outflow, as well as a series of protests in different parts of the country, are a stark display of discontent with Putin’s policy.”

Over the weekend an independent Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazetta put the number at 261,000 men (as of Sunday). What would you do? Move to Mongolia? One of the Stans?

There is also evidence that Russia may be moving to stem the flow of departures. On Wednesday, Russia’s North Ossetia republic imposed restrictions on cars arriving from other parts of the country. The republic’s governor, Sergei Menyaylo, said the ban was being introduced after 20,000 people crossed the border in two days.
Some European countries have already imposed border restrictions with Russia, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, which have closed their doors to most Russian citizens. Finland is considering similar measures.
On Wednesday, the United State Embassy in Moscow, which had previously urged its citizens to leave Russia, restated the position in the light of the mobilization drive, warning that those with dual Russian and American nationality could be at risk of being drafted.
Russia is also attempting to clamp down on citizens trying to leave the country. On Tuesday, the state news media reported that men waiting to flee at the Georgia border were being served call-up papers.

Related, everyone is blaming everyone else for the sabotage of two Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia to Germany, which is causing one of the worst natural gas (methane) leaks in history. The Times of London reported that an unnamed “British defence source” says the explosion were “‘probably premeditated and planned for’ using an explosive device dropped into the sea weeks before it was detonated… a deliberate act of sabotage, with Russia labelled by Poland and Ukraine as the culprit.” The CIA warned the German government about possible pipeline sabotage weeks ago.

Putin is reduced to waving around Russia’s nuclear weapons. Daniel Fried, distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former U.S. ambassador to Poland: “He is dangerous, he is desperate. Because he’s in a weak position he’s doubling down on what he may consider to be his strongest remaining assets: nuclear threat and ability to use violence to achieve his aims, such as blowing up the Nordstream pipelines, if in fact Russia is responsible, which it appears they may be. He’s hoping to use unpredictability as a tactical weapon to intimidate the West.”

Russia, of course, has a very different perspective. “The Kremlin on Wednesday said claims that Russia was somehow behind a possible attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines were stupid, adding that the United States had opposed the pipelines and its companies had made big profits supplying gas to Europe. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a daily conference call with reporters that the incident needed to be investigated and the timings for repair of the damaged pipelines were not clear. Asked about claims Russia might be behind the possible attack, Peskov said: ‘That's quite predictable and also predictably stupid. Are we interested in that? No, we are not, we have lost a route for gas supplies to Europe,’ Peskov said… ‘We see the huge profits of the U.S. suppliers of liquefied natural gas, who increased their supplies many-fold to the European continent,’ Peskov said. ‘They are very, very interested in further receiving their super, super profits.’”

Yesterday, Thomas Friedman wrote that Putin’s

“idiotic” attack on Ukraine is “diverting worldwide attention and resources needed to mitigate climate change— during what may be the last decade when we still have a chance to manage the climate extremes that are now unavoidable and avoid those that could become unmanageable… not just a crime against Ukraine and humanity. It’s also a crime against the home we all share: planet Earth.”


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