MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Putin on Friday signed a bill allowing authorities to issue electronic notices to drafters and reservists amid fighting in Ukraine.fueling fears of a new wave of mobilization.
Russia’s military service rules require in-person notifications to conscripts and reservists previously called up for duty. Under the new law, notices issued by local military conscription offices will be sent by mail, but will be considered valid from the moment they are placed on the state portal for electronic services.
In the past, many Russians avoided the draft By staying away from their registered address. The new law closes that loophole in an apparent attempt to create a tool to rapidly bolster the military ahead of a widely expected Ukrainian counteroffensive. In the coming weeks.
Those who fail to turn up for service will be barred from leaving Russia, have their driver’s licenses suspended and be barred from selling their apartments and other property.
The bill, signed by Putin, was published in the Official Register of Government Documents.
Kremlin critics and rights activists denounced the law as a step toward a “digital prison camp” that would give military conscription offices unprecedented powers.
Lyudmila Narusova, the widow of former St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak, was the only member of the House to speak against the measure when the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, considered the bill on Wednesday.
Narusova, who was mentored by her late husband Putin, accused the bill of violating the country’s constitution and various laws, and strongly opposed its hasty approval.
The swift implementation of the law fueled fears that the government would launch another mobilization following one ordered by Putin in the fall.
Russian officials deny that another mobilization is planned. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this week that action was needed to overhaul the outdated summons system, given the flaws revealed by last fall’s partial mobilization.
“There was a lot of confusion in the military conscription offices,” he said. “The aim of the bill is to clean up this mess and make it modern, useful and convenient for citizens.”
Putin announced in September that he would invite 300,000 reservists After a Ukrainian counteroffensive that drove Russian forces out of vast areas in the east.
The mobilization order prompted the evacuation of Russian men, estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands.
Observers say the new law gives authorities a mechanism to quickly ramp up forces in preparation for a new Ukrainian offensive.
“One possible reason is that they see that the Ukrainians are preparing to attack,” said Abbas Kalyamov, a former Putin interlocutor turned Kremlin critic who fled Russia.
Gallyamov was labeled a “foreign agent” by Russian authorities, which carries strong pejorative connotations aimed at further government scrutiny and undermining the recipient’s credibility. He has also been included in the wanted list For criminal suspects.
Kalyamov said the law may fuel discontent but is unlikely to spark protests.
“On the one hand, there is growing discontent and reluctance to fight, but on the other hand there is a fear of increased repression,” he said. “People are put in front of a difficult choice between going to war and dying, or being thrown into prison if they resist.”