Will Ukraine be Putin's downfall?

The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web

Vladimir Putin.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images)

Russia this week stepped up its crackdown on protests against President Vladimir Putin's order for a "partial mobilization" to bolster his war effort in Ukraine. Putin last week ordered 300,000 military reserves onto active-duty status, prompting crowds to pour into the streets of Moscow and other cities, with many chanting, "Send Putin to the trenches!" and "Let our children live!" There were 17 attacks on conscription centers, including one in Siberia where a young man who was upset his friend had been drafted allegedly shot and gravely wounded a chief recruiter. Young men desperately trying to avoid conscription rushed to the border or to board planes to get out of the country.

The unpopular mobilization came after a Ukrainian counteroffensive forced Russian troops into an embarrassing retreat from parts of eastern Ukraine they seized early in the war. Western officials say Russia has suffered a staggering 70,000 to 80,000 casualties since invading Ukraine in February. Russian media reports have said young men who have never served in the military, not just reservists, now are being drafted, as are some men beyond draft age, fueling suspicions that Putin is trying to mobilize more than a million new soldiers. The Kremlin denies that, but the draft is even upsetting some Putin allies. "They're infuriating people, as if on purpose, as if out of spite," Margarita Simonyan, editor in chief of state-backed RT media outlet, told Radio Free Europe. Has Putin miscalculated so badly that his political survival is at risk?

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Harold Maass, The Week US

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at The Week. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 debut of the U.S. print edition and served as editor of TheWeek.com when it launched in 2008. Harold started his career as a newspaper reporter in South Florida and Haiti. He has previously worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, ABC News and Fox News, and for several years wrote a daily roundup of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance.