Exiled oligarch says Putin’s conscription will ‘turn Russian cities into coffins’

Ukraine: Putin exploits rural conscription to avoid protests

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Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is an active member of Russia’s exiled opposition, said that a decision to send conscripts to Ukraine would be “politically extremely heavy”. He said that the Russian President would face a major political backlash were he to send high numbers of conscripted soldiers from cities into Ukraine. However, Mr Khodorkovsky said that the scenario is possible, as “the value of human life in Russia, is not as high as one would like to see it be.”

He continued: “Especially when we are talking about people who live in the North Caucasus or people who live in tiny villages and settlements

“Knowing this, Putin is taking his soldiers specifically from those places.

“And he pays such money for their deaths, forcing their close relatives to keep their mouths shut.”

Russia has denied that it is deploying conscripts in Ukraine but it has acknowledged that some troops were mistakenly sent to fight after a number of them were captured.

Spokesperson for the Russian Defence Ministry Igor Konashenkov said: “Unfortunately, some facts have come to light about the presence of conscript servicemen among the Russian armed forces conducting the special military operation on Ukrainian territory.

“Practically all of the conscripts have been returned to the territory of the Russian Federation.

“In addition, one of the divisions operating toll security has been attacked by a diversionist group of the national battalion.

“A number of military personnel, some of which conscripts, were captured in this attack.”

Speaking about the possibility of Putin sending 100,000 to 200,000 more conscripted soldiers to Ukraine, Mr Khodorkovsky said: “Without a doubt, such a step, if Putin is forced to take it, is going to be politically extremely heavy for him.

“And even more, he could call up a million people, but then big cities are going to end up in coffins.

“Big cities where public opinion is entirely different as to the value of human life, and for Putin that would be a massive problem on the eve of a transfer of power in 2024.”

Speaking to the Atlantic Council, Mr Khordorkovsky, who was jailed by Putin’s government in 2003 after being charged with financial crimes, claimed Putin believes he is “at war with the US and NATO.”

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The exiled oligarch was imprisoned for nine years but maintained throughout that he was jailed for political reasons.

He was released in 2013 and has since been an active member of Russia’s exiled opposition.

Just last week, Putin ordered 134,500 more conscripts to join his army but has denied this is related to the war in Ukraine.

The order came five weeks into Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, as efforts seem to be stalling.

According to NATO’s assessment, between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian soldiers are thought to have been killed in the fighting so far.

However, Ukraine has claimed that the figure could be as high as 18,300.

Up to 647 tanks have been destroyed, as well as 1,844 armoured combat vehicles and 330 artillery systems.

Between 2,000 and 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers are believed to have been killed so far, according to US estimates.

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