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Vladimir Putin has carried out a new purge of military officials after his botched mobilisation saw thousands sent home because they were unfit for service.
The chaotic call-up has seen old men, students and unfit civilians being sent to the front lines of Ukraine in a desperate bid to shore up numbers in the Kremlin’s faltering war effort.
The military commissar of Russia’s Khabarovsk region, Yuri Laiko, was removed from his post after half of the new personnel did not meet the draft criteria and were sent home.
Russian citizens drafted during the partial mobilisation begin their military training in Rostov before being sent to the front lines
Russia’s first mobilisation since World War Two has led to widespread discontent among officials and citizens
The appalling conditions in which the mobilised men are kept are causing increasing concern in Russia
Commander of the Western Military District, Alexander Zhuravlev, 56, has also been ousted in revenge for Ukraine’s successful counter-offensive.
He has been replaced by hardliner Lieutenant-General Roman Berdnikov in Putin’s latest musical chairs among his leading commanders, according to international intelligence community InformNapalm.
Amid fury in the Russian elite it is expected more heads will roll over the blundering mobilisation.
Mikhail Degtyarev, the governor of the Khabarovsk region in Russia’s Far East, said: ‘In 10 days, several thousand of our countrymen received summons and arrived at the military registration and enlistment offices.
‘About half of them we returned home as they did not meet the selection criteria for entering the military service.’
Russia’s first mobilisation since World War Two has led to widespread discontent among officials and citizens over the way the draft has been handled, including complaints about enlistment officers sending call-up papers to clearly ineligible men.
The military commissar of Russia’s Khabarovsk region, Yuri Laiko (left), was removed from his post along with Alexander Zhuravlev (right) commander of the Western Military District
Relatives say goodbye to Russian citizens drafted during the partial mobilisation as they join their military units
A convoy of Russian military vehicles is seen as the vehicles move towards the border in the Donbas
Newly-mobilised men in Novosibirsk region have to burn fires to stay warm as they wait for accommodation
Ice hockey stars paid bribes of tens of thousands of pounds to avoid Putin’s army
An ice hockey star in Russia was today fined £40,000 for bribing an official so he could avoid military service.
Vladislav Lukin, 25, admits he paid £16,000 to buy a military ticket showing he had completed basic Russian military service when he had not.
He paid the bribe before the war to bent ex-cop Farit Samigullin, but the Yugra club player could now be vulnerable to the draft in Vladimir Putin’s mobilision even though his club has pleaded that he should not be called up.
Samigullin was detained in April.
Two other professional ice hockey players Mikhail Vorobyov, 25, and Anvar Suleimanov, 22, were also convicted of paying similar bribes to the same former police officer to avoid the army.
All three players avoided jail, even though the law allows for up to 12 years behind bars.
SKA Saint Petersburg star Vorobyov was fined £36,000 and Salavat Yulaev Ufa player Suleimanov put on probation for five years.
Russia has sought to highlight prominent young men seeking to avoid the one-year military service.
However, children of the elite usually find ways around the draft without punishment.
The chaotic mobilisation of men to fight in Ukraine has also prompted thousands of fighting-age men to flee from the country to avoid a draft that was billed as enlisting those with military experience and specialities but has often appeared oblivious to service records, health, student status and even age.
Some 2,000 people have been arrested at anti-war protests in more than 30 towns and cities, and some of them promptly given call-up papers – something the Kremlin said was perfectly legal.
Videos show how the army command has insisted on immediately taking mobilised men from their families to fight in the war – but then dumping them in fields with no tents all over Russia and Siberia.
‘They grab us in our homes, but then have no single clue what to do with us, and no means to get us to the war,’ said one.
‘No wonder we’re in such a mess fighting Ukraine.’
The appalling conditions in which the mobilised men are kept are causing increasing concern in Russia.
As temperatures sink below freezing in Siberia, they are being left outside and ordered to build campfires.
‘We’re gonion to be in no fit state if this shambles of an army ever gets us to Ukraine,’ said a mobilised engineer, who was taken with five hours notice from his wife and two children.
In Yakutia – Russia’s largest region – 300 men were returned home because they were wrongly mobilised amid the chaotic recruitment process.
In one video from Omsk region, Siberia a conscript says: ‘They dumped us in a field. ‘No f***ing idea what we are doing here. ‘We are not alone here. ‘There are some 800 of us – we are waiting. ‘We are certainly not the first ones [dumped like this], and not the last.’
Another video has a mobilised civilian saying: ‘We were placed here outside Omsk Airborne unit. ‘They told us ‘Figure yourselves out, burn fires and sleep in the street’. ‘So we decided to have a drink, because we need to get warm.’
Among those dumped in the open are men mobilised in the Arctic outpost of Norilsk.
The commentator says: ‘There is f**k all around here… ‘Men are….living like this outdoors for a week.’
A video shows a couple kissing through a metal fence before the man is taken away to the war
The army command has insisted on immediately taking mobilised men from their families to fight in the war but they have been forced to sleep on the floor
As temperatures sink below freezing in Siberia, they are being left outside and ordered to build campfires
An ice hockey star has also been fined for bribing an official with £16,000 in a bid to avoid military service.
A leading Russian commentator Maxim Yusin, a foreign policy analyst, has told pro-Putin propagandists to get real over the war in Ukraine admitting ‘things are not going so well’.
In an unusual expression of doubt, he urged them to stop publicly boasting Moscow forces would ‘liberate’ strategic Zaporizhzhia or saying that the chaotic mobilisation of reservists will help gain victory for the Kremlin.
He told an NTV war discussion: ‘It’s a bit wild to pontificate about how we will liberate Zaporizhzhia with 710,000 residents
‘Ask anyone here, when they are in the make-up room.
‘I think anyone will honestly admit they don’t know whether mobilisation will help us or not to change the course of military actions.
‘So far, things are not going so well.
‘It’s easy to say ‘after the liberation of Zaporizhzhia’….try liberating it, the way everything is going.’
Newly-mobilised men from across Russia share pictures and videos with complaints about them having to sleep on the floor
Tens of thousands of Russian men were suddenly called up into the military and tens of thousands of others fled abroad
Staunchly pro-Kremlin TV is owned by Gazprom Media.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces are reported to be recapturing towns along the west bank of the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine today, with Moscow forced to yield territory along a second major front line just days after claiming to have annexed it.
The scale of the Ukrainian advance was unconfirmed, with Kyiv maintaining all but complete silence about the situation in the area.
But Russian military bloggers described a Ukrainian tank advance through dozens of miles of territory along the bank of the river.
In one of the rare comments by a Ukrainian official on the situation, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the interior ministry, posted what he said was video of a Ukrainian soldier waving a flag in Zolota Balka, downriver from the former front line.
Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute think-tank, cited Russian bloggers as reporting their forces falling back as far as Dudchany, (25 miles downriver from where they had opposed Ukrainian troops a day earlier.
‘When this many Russian channels are sounding the alarm, it usually means they’re in trouble,’ he wrote on Twitter.
A Ukrainian advance along the Dnipro river could trap thousands of Russian troops on the far side, cut off from all supplies. The river is enormously wide, and Ukraine has already destroyed the major crossings.
The reports were the first to describe a rapid Ukrainian advance in the south of the country since the war began, and come just a day after Ukraine routed Russian troops in a major bastion, Lyman, on the opposite end of the front in the east.
The advances in the east and the south – some of the biggest of the war so far – have all taken place in territory that Putin claimed to have annexed from Ukraine only on Friday, with a celebratory concert by the Kremlin walls.
The fall of Lyman in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province, hours after Putin declared his annexation, opens the way for Ukrainian forces to strike deeper into Russian-held territory and cut off remaining Russian supply routes.
‘Thanks to the successful operation in Lyman we are moving towards the second north-south route… and that means a second supply line will be disrupted,’ said reserve colonel Viktor Kevlyuk at Ukraine’s Centre for Defence Strategies think-tank.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the capture of Lyman demonstrated that Ukraine was capable of dislodging Russian forces and showed the impact Ukraine’s deployment of advanced Western weapons was having on the conflict.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the success of the country’s soldiers was not limited to Lyman.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Washington was ‘very encouraged’ by Ukrainian gains.
Russia’s parliament is to consider bills on today to absorb the four Ukrainian regions, the speaker of the lower house of parliament said.
These are Donetsk and Luhansk in the east and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south.