New photographs show older-looking men among those lining up to fight for Russia in Ukraine, as Russian President Vladimir Putin enlists more men for his ailing war.
The men – many of whom have grey hair and wizened faces – were seen mustering in Sevastopol, in Russian-occupied Crimea on Tuesday, before being bussed away.
The decree said only people with relevant experience aged up to 35 would be conscripted. However, this has not matched the reality of who has been drafted. Since being announced the mobilisation order has sparked rare street protests across Russia.
Sergey Schmidt, a reservist, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying: “It's positive [the mood of the soldiers]. I will be protecting my motherland and my loving family, so that it's quiet in the world and our children can sleep in a normal situation.”
Putin ordered the mobilisation of 300,000 more men last week after a string of losses in Ukraine this past month.
Hundreds of thousands of men in their 20s and 30s are believed to have fled the country, with days-long queues at the Georgian border and prices of international flights to countries where Russians don’t need visas skyrocketing.
There has been wide criticism that people with no relevant experience or people who are not able to fight – such as people with disabilities or older people – are being drafted.
The pictures came out as the PR disaster deepens for the Kremlin’s war, with even staunch Putin loyalists complaining that people who are much too old to fight on a battlefield have been called up.
Sergei Melikov, the leader of Dagestan – a Russian province that has seen a large number of men mistakenly drafted – issued a furious statement against the way the mobilisation had been carried out, calling officers “fucking idiots.”
On Thursday, Putin acknowledged “mistakes” had been made in the mobilisation following the outcry.
Putin is set to formally announce the annexation of four Russian-occupied Ukrainian regions following sham referendums on Friday afternoon.