Putin’s martial law orders signal changes in Russian life that are just beginning

Almost immediately after Putin signed the decrees, the governors of the relevant Russian regions lined up to assure their constituents that the same kinds of restrictions contained in the decrees and most likely imposed in the annexed regions of the south and eastern Ukraine.

Chief among these voices was Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

“We will take the necessary measures to improve the security of civilian facilities and critical facilities,” Sobianin wrote on Telegram on Wednesday. “At the same time, I must state that no measures are currently being introduced to limit the normal pace of city life.”

Few in the capital seem reassured.

Putin’s call for troops came as a shock to the townspeople, who for seven months had been doing their best to get on with their lives. It is estimated that tens of thousands of Moscow men have fled the country.

“Politicians can be believed or disbelieved, they will do what they see fit at all times, so no, I’m not reassured,” said Alexandra, a 56-year-old retired accountant in Moscow who asked that his last name be withheld due for fear of reprisal, NBC News told NBC News. “However, I doubt that life in Moscow will change much even if martial law is imposed – it never did, even during WWII!”

Pavel Chikov, a prominent Russian human rights lawyer, warned his followers on Telegram that the answer to the question of whether wartime restrictions can now be applied across the country is: “Yes, they do. can”.

Andrei Kolesnikov, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says last month’s mobilization effort shows this.

“Moscow can be considered a special place,” says Kolesnikov, “but given that there was a manhunt among the people of St. Petersburg and Moscow, I can’t say that the inhabitants of the capitals are in security.”

Russian independent journalists Farida Rustamova and Maxim Tovkaylo, in an article reviewing Putin’s decrees, note that these measures are legally unprecedented in modern Russia and “drastically expand the powers of the authorities in the conditions of war with the Ukraine and, in fact, introduce special living rules throughout the country.

Taken together, the orders – which in many ways are vague and open-ended – give the Russian military, security services and regional authorities significant power to mobilize local residents and businesses to support “the special military operation. The foundations were also laid to increase the level of security in a given region to full martial law at all times.

Beyond the four Ukrainian regions now subject to martial law proper, six Russian regions bordering Ukraine are now subject to a “medium level of response”, as well as Crimea under Russian control. It is essentially “soft” martial law, and it allows regional governors to control movement within their territories and evacuate residents if necessary.

These areas have seen restrictions since the start of the war, but in recent weeks authorities have tightened their grip along the border. This was prompted by Ukrainian strikes on buildings and infrastructure on internationally recognized Russian territory, such as Belgorod. And last week, mobilized soldiers opened fire on their comrades at a training ground in Belgorod.

The introduction of “soft” martial law in these regions suggests that the Kremlin expects Belgorod and other districts to increasingly feel war – which is not out of the question given the Ukraine’s successful counter-offensives. Concerns about sabotage in Russia are also growing.

A third level, “increased preparedness”, has been imposed on the rest of the administrative regions in western and southern Russia that are not covered by the “medium response” level – this would include the national capital, Moscow. The rest of the country is subject to a “basic” level of readiness which allows for greater presence and security restrictions.

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