A partial mobilisation declared by Vladimir Putin last Tuesday has caused chaotic scenes with several hundred thousand men rushing to the country’s land border to avoid being sent to Ukraine.
Now some of Russia’s most prominent propaganda mouthpieces have started to criticise overzealous recruitment officers who have attempted to draft men who are ineligible under Mr Putin’s decree that was supposed to target only younger men with combat experience.
Margarita Simonyan, known as one of Russia’s most notorious warmongers, has expressed outrage at the sweeping mobilisation, blaming the recruitment officers for misinterpreting the Russian president’s order:
“Do you really think that if (Putin) did not even want to send conscripts to Ukraine, he meant to send there hairdressers, female cardiologists, people with broken spines, the teacher of the year from Pskovk, an orchestra musician or a theatre director?” she said on state TV.
“This is not the horrible liberal scum on the payroll of the West: These are our people and our nation we have to protect.”
RIA Novosti, a media holding run by Ms Simonyan, complained on Monday that its employee, a 33-year-old sports reporter, was barred from boarding a plane for the Turkish Mediterranean coast because of the ongoing mobilisation.
It came as the EU border agency, Frontex, revealed the number of Russians crossing into the EU is up by 30 per cent.
"Over the past week, nearly 66,000 Russian citizens entered the EU, more than 30 per cent compared to the preceding week. Most of them arrived to Finland and Estonia," Frontex said in a statement.
Over the last four days alone, 30,000 Russian citizens arrived in Finland, according to the statement.
Olga Skabeyeva, one of the most prominent state TV hosts, on Tuesday also lashed out at the mobilisation drive, urging criminal prosecution for those who abuse their powers in drafting men.
Even Russia’s most blood-thirsty war reporters from state TV have expressed dismay over what appears to be a completely random choice of conscripts.
Alexander Kots, a war correspondent for Komsomolskaya Pravda, on Tuesday published a complaint from the wife of a middle-aged surgeon who “would make a lot of good in his job” but was called up as a soldier.
Several Russian governors who fervently supported the invasion of Ukraine have mounted public campaigns to “correct mistakes” of the draft.
Mikhail Razvozzhayev, governor of Sevastopol that Russia annexed in 2014, on Tuesday published a list of unfit men who had been drafted.
“I very much hope that common sense will prevail and a partial mobilisation will become fully transparent, legal and orderly as soon as possible,” he said, pledging to bring back the wrongfully mobilised men even if they were already shipped to a training camp.
Meanwhile, Russian officials said on Tuesday morning they were going to set up a mobile draft office on the border with Georgia where several thousand desperate men have been queuing to flee the country amid reports of an impending exit ban.
In an ominous sign for at least 5,500 cars waiting to cross into Georgia, local officials in the Russian border region of North Ossetia said on Tuesday they are planning to set up a mobile draft office at the border.
Officials in Georgia on Monday said about 115,000 people and 37,000 cars crossed over from Russia last week.
Kazakhstan, which shares a lengthy border in Russia’s south-east, took in at least 98,000 Russians since Mr Putin announced mobilisation last week, the Kazakh interior ministry said.