The sound of old Soviet war songs mixed with the sobbing of relatives in the small Russian town of Bataysk as freshly mobilised reservists in Russia’s southern Rostov region said goodbye to their families.
Recruits were summoned as part of the partial mobilisation announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin after a decisive counteroffensive by the military in Ukraine, which Russia invaded seven months ago.
Protests against the call-up and Russia’s military operation have taken place in dozens of cities, and long queues have formed at Russia’s land borders with several countries.
Twenty-year-old Roman Khodakov, who had received a draft notice only the night before, told the Reuters news agency he had returned from the army just three months ago.
“A man came and gave me the draft notice. Mum wasn’t happy but what could we do? We have to defend our country,” Roman said. “The main thing is to overcome the fear: I only fear for my family; they are heartbroken … I don’t fear for myself – it’s God’s will.”
The military recruitment office in Bataysk sits next to the local marriage registry office on the town’s central square.
Andrei and his fiancée Yulia had not planned on getting married, but the mobilisation forced them to think again.
“I have mixed emotions: I feel fear of the unknown, I feel a lot right now,” he said holding his young son and a football in his hands.
After being pronounced husband and wife, Andrei and Yulia kissed each other – tears quietly streaming down her cheeks – and Andrei left to join his fellow recruits.