Putin’s Top Cheerleaders Panic Over Russian Army ‘Mutiny’

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

Russia’s “partial mobilization” cast another shadow on the already dire situation its Armed Forces are facing in Ukraine. The situation is so grotesque that even Russian President Vladimir Putin’s biggest cheerleaders find themselves trashing the way the mobilization is being conducted.

Top pro-Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov and head of RT Margarita Simonyan spent much of the broadcast of the state TV show Sunday Evening With Vladimir Solovyov complaining about the issues with the mobilization. Solovyov said, “There are panicked calls on my phone, on Margarita’s phone, which shows that a number of people involved have forgotten how to do their jobs.”

Simonyan added that after listening to Putin’s announcement and the follow-up message from Russia’s Defense Ministry, she was under the impression that only people with prior military experience were subject to mobilization—but that’s not what happened. RT’s head said that she knows many people with prior combat experience, but none of them received any call-up notices.

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She angrily recounted numerous instances where the new recruits included students, those outside the age limit, people with serious illnesses, barbers, teachers, musicians, and a single mother of two young children. Among the people swept up in the mobilization efforts, Solovyov and Simonyan recounted seeing information about draftees as old as 62 and 59 years of age.

Solovyov brought up another egregious instance in which a severely ill musician was mobilized in Novosibirsk, prompting Senator Alexander Karelin to intervene. The recruiter explained that he drafted the musician because he previously made some sort of complaint against him. The host also mentioned an instance of rusty automatic weapons being distributed to new recruits, angrily questioning why that was done. Simonyan chimed in to say that these “small things” have a major impact on people.

Solovyov pointed out: “All of them have phones and they won’t stay silent. If they’re being handed rotten things, if they have no helmets, no body armor, no one is going to hide it... I will tell you very politely: Don’t play games with people… This isn’t some liberal riff-raff, these are our people and I refuse to be silent about it.” Continuing with the same theme, Simonyan cautioned: “Comrade Commanders, this is not the time for this... don’t anger the people!” The head of RT urged those involved in the process of mobilization to remember the story of the mutiny that occurred on the battleship Potemkin, sparked by the crew being fed maggot-infested meat. Simonyan exclaimed: “Let me remind you that in 1905, small things like these led to the first mutiny of an entire military unit in the history of our country. Is that what you want?” She starkly warned: “You’re toying with armed people.”

Solovyov bitterly pointed out the split in Russia’s society: “Now we see that we have two sides. One side is being sent off as heroes to a people's war, while others are cowardly looking where and how to buy a ticket.” With unconfirmed reports claiming that over a quarter of a million Russians have left the country since the mobilization was announced last week, Simonyan had a message for those who left: “Good riddance... Just remember, no one is waiting for you there. Your money will run out and then you’ll have to come back.” Solovyov revealed that approximately 300 people called asking him for advice as to whether they’ll be able to leave the country after September 27, when Russia may officially start preventing people of draft age from departing. There are reports that such measures are already being implemented at some international airports and border crossings.

Simonyan added, “It would be tremendous if the help of our civil society wasn’t needed... Partial mobilization is a forced measure. Of course, we would all prefer that it wasn’t taking place. For example, on February 24, I didn’t think that such a necessity would arise... We thought that all of this could be accomplished with much less blood and of course, we weren’t anticipating such strong resistance from NATO and the collective West. This happens in the beginning of any war: underestimating the resistance, overestimating your own force. So here we are with this partial mobilization.”

The head of RT expressed her concerns about supplying the newly drafted people with equipment, technology, and basic essentials: “Since we had to gather and send the goods to those tens of thousands that were already on the frontlines... truckloads that added up to trainloads of UAVs, body armor, socks, and the rest, will these three hundred thousand be supplied with all that they need?”

Her solution was to punish those responsible for the shortcomings and urge the rich to contribute to the war effort—an idea that has been picking up steam in Russian state media. Simonyan said, “We have many such people in our country. Right now, they have to share their wealth with those who have been mobilized and their families... I personally know hundreds, hundreds of people who wouldn’t go poor by doing that... Write me, call me, everybody knows my number... Let’s create a united front. Those who aren’t with us have left already—good riddance.”

She also had harsh words for the mothers trying to protect their children from the draft, calling their efforts shameful. Simonyan noted, “My children are small, but had I given birth to them at the right time, they would be of the draft age right now.”

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But there was one person who received no blame, no questions, and no harsh words from Solovyov or Simonyan: Russian President Vladimir Putin. On the contrary, Simonyan praised Putin for taking “the heavy load of responsibility” solely upon himself. Likewise, Solovyov never criticized the very person responsible for Russia’s ill-conceived invasion of Ukraine, preferring to lay the blame on everyone else involved in the process. Referring to the mobilization criteria set forth by Putin, Solovyov said that anyone not following the mandated guidelines should be subjected to “the harshest punishment.” He added, “If someone is trying to discredit our Supreme Commander-in-Chief, I would strongly advise them not to do it.”

Having previously tweeted that RT received over seven hundred complaints pertaining to the mobilization, Simonyan promised to publicize the names of the commanders involved in problematic cases of mobilization, if the situation does not improve. Solovyov had a more radical proposal to boost the sinking morale in the country, asking, “Could we have executions by shooting?”

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