For almost a year and a half, Ukrainian working people have pushed back Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion aimed at subjugating their country. Putin is now expanding the age of conscription to replenish his battered forces, while taking further steps to try to silence growing opposition to the war at home.
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Moscow’s forces have heavily mined front lines of areas they have seized in Ukraine, slowing today’s Ukrainian counteroffensive. Nonetheless, the village of Staromaiorske in the south was recaptured by Ukrainian forces July 27, as part of grinding progress in three directions.
Putin hopes Russia’s much larger population and military resources will allow it to hold onto areas Moscow occupies and that backing for Kyiv by the capitalist rulers in Washington and their allies will weaken over time.
The Kremlin is gearing up for a long war. Putin’s proposal to raise the top conscription age from 27 to 30 will swell by another 2 million the pool of men the Russian rulers can conscript for use as cannon fodder. A ban on draftees leaving the country has also been adopted to try to prevent them fleeing the war. Military supply factories are running around the clock.
Putin remains fearful that rising casualties may ignite broader opposition and continues to shut down organizations that have protested his war. The Council of Mothers and Wives, organized by relatives of conscripts, announced it had been forced to cease functioning July 28. In May the Kremlin designated the group as “foreign agents.”
“We do not want to continue with this stigma, because in this form it is simply humiliating for women,” said Olga Tsukanova, head of the group.
The organization was formed after the regime’s call-up last September and had chapters in 89 cities. It demanded proper training and medical care for soldiers, the right to inspect military units and that the government begin peace talks. In a March video it said, “Our mobilized men are being sent like lambs to the slaughter.”
Prior to smearing the group as “foreign agents,” authorities had detained Tsukanova and fined her for “discrediting” the country’s armed forces. Despite shutting the organization down, Tsukanova said the group’s members would continue their activities. “We will still each stand up for justice where we are.”
Just before the invasion, Putin used the same law to ban political rights group Memorial as “foreign agents.”
Sanctions hit working people
Washington has responded to the war by imposing sanctions on Russia. They’re aimed at Russian workers and farmers, to make them pay for Putin’s war. Working people bear the brunt of job cuts and inflation. The sanctions come on top of the broader capitalist economic crisis they face. Sanctions undercut the fight for fraternization between working people in Ukraine and Russia and make building a powerful working-class struggle to end the war more difficult.
Russian emigres continue to protest Putin’s war. Dozens demonstrated in Belgrade, Serbia, July 30, demanding that two leading anti-war critics be allowed to stay in the country after the Serbian government refused them residency. Since the start of the war, some 200,000 Russians have fled to Serbia.
In New York the same day, over 30 people, mostly Russian immigrants, protested the war. “The only way out — withdraw troops from Ukraine,” read a placard.
Tatiana Vorozheeva, one of the organizers, told the Militant the war has caused deep rifts within many Russian families. Some people strongly defend Ukraine’s independence, she said, while others echo the great-Russian chauvinist arguments used by the Kremlin for its attempts to crush Ukraine.
In the discussion with Vorozheeva, Sara Lobman, Socialist Workers Party candidate for New York City Council, pointed to the Bolshevik-led 1917 Russian Revolution. Under Lenin’s leadership, the workers and farmers government granted self-determination to Ukraine and all the nations oppressed under the Russian czars, opening the door to a flowering of national culture. But after Lenin’s death, that course was sharply reversed in a counterrevolution headed by Joseph Stalin. It took until 1991 for Ukraine to become independent, after the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the former Soviet Union.
Today, “Putin says Lenin and the Bolsheviks were the worst thing that ever happened to Russia,” Lobman said. “Putin seeks to reestablish the Russian empire with its prison house of nations.”