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Hundreds arrested as Russian draft protests continue

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Hundreds of people have been arrested by authorities as protests against Russia’s new “partial mobilisation” continue across the country, an independent rights group has said.

At least 724 people were detained across 32 different cities on Saturday.

Widespread demonstrations have broken out since president Vladimir Putin announced plans to draft 300,000 men to fight in Ukraine.

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Some of those arrested on Saturday reported being handed draft papers and ordered to report to recruiting centres while being held by security officials. The Kremlin defended the practice earlier this week, saying “it isn’t against the law”.

Moscow has also approved harsh new punishments for those accused of dereliction of duty once drafted.

Putin signed fresh decrees on Saturday imposing punishments of up to 10 years imprisonment for any soldier caught surrendering, attempting to desert the military or refusing to fight.

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The president also signed orders granting Russian citizenship to any foreign national who signs up to serve a year in the country’s military.

Elsewhere, other young Russians continue to flee mobilisation by seeking to leave the country.

On the border with Georgia, queues of Russian cars stretch back more than 30km and the interior ministry has urged people not to travel.

Local Russian officials have admitted that there’s been a significant influx of cars trying to cross with nearly 2,500 vehicles waiting at one checkpoint.

The admission is a change of tone from Russia, with the Kremlin describing reports of Russians fleeing conscription as “fake” on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Finland has also seen a sharp increase in the number of Russians seeking to enter the country.

On Friday, the government announced plans to stop Russian tourists from entering the country.

“The aspiration and purpose are to significantly reduce the number of people coming to Finland from Russia,” president Sauli Niinistö told the state broadcaster.

Several other neighbouring states have already ruled out offering asylum to Russians seeking to avoid the draft.—BBC

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