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Russia-Ukraine war: Russians in New Zealand devastated by Putin’s troop callup, nuclear threat

Vladimir Putin announced partial mobilisation of Russian citizens as Russia begins to lose ground in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Video /...

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Vladimir Putin announced partial mobilisation of Russian citizens as Russia begins to lose ground in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Video / Sky News

By Sam Olley of RNZ

New Zealand-based Russians opposed to the war in Ukraine have described Vladimir Putin’s latest televised address as “completely horrendous” and “crushing”.

Putin announced the mobilisation of 300,000 military reserves and said the federation had “lots of weapons” to counter nuclear threats.

Elena Nikiforova, originally from Moscow, told RNZ Putin’s speech panicked her Russian friends and family, and she knew some people preparing to go into hiding.

“I felt sick to my stomach and just got a pounding headache immediately when I read this news.”

As people tried to escape Russia, fearing conscription, flights were selling out and there were queues at borders.

Elena Nikiforova. Photo / Supplied via RNZ
Elena Nikiforova. Photo / Supplied via RNZ

Nikiforova said Putin’s words were a “total nightmare” and “completely horrendous”.

“People [have] been calling me and messaging me constantly, all night and this morning. And so I just had four hours’ sleep this night [Wednesday].”

Nikiforova spoke to a friend this morning, who was concerned for her son’s future.

“He’s healthy, and so he will be qualified for the army service. And she was in complete hysterics … not knowing what to do and how to save her son basically.”

Ekaterina, also from Moscow, said Putin’s leadership made her feel hopeless.

“It’s just out of control. I feel despair, like nothing can really be done.”

Her father was a former pilot and was worried he would be called up to fight.

“He’s definitely considering possibilities to move away from Russia.”

But Ekaterina said her family had it much easier than others across the border.

Riot police detain demonstrators during a protest against mobilisation in Moscow, Russia. Photo / AP
Riot police detain demonstrators during a protest against mobilisation in Moscow, Russia. Photo / AP

“Those challenges are nothing comparing to what Ukrainian people are going through.”

Yaroslav Sergeev, originally from Siberia, was angry about the speech, particularly Putin’s nuclear remarks.

“Nobody knows what to expect from Putin and the political elites. All of them … in my opinion, are criminals.”

Andrey, who was Russian and Ukrainian, said many of his male university friends from Russia had already fled during the war to avoid being forced to fight.

“They basically just left everything that they had in Russia and just ran away, like some to Armenia, some to Turkey.”

A protest outside the Russian Embassy in Wellington this evening. Photo / Soumya Bhamidipati, RNZ
A protest outside the Russian Embassy in Wellington this evening. Photo / Soumya Bhamidipati, RNZ

Nuclear war fears

Natalia, from eastern Russia, had some family in the army. They had not been deployed to the frontline, but expected to be soon.

But her biggest concern was nuclear war.

“I’m terrified of it. I actually believe that he [Putin] can press a button. When the war started, for the first five days, I had nightmares. I would wake up in the middle of the night and quickly check [my] telephone to see if he blew up a bomb.”

Despite the distance in Aotearoa, she had been deeply affected by the conflict, emotionally.

“When the war started, I couldn’t even work. I had to resign from my job, because it was just unbearable, like that moral guilt and shame and everything. It was just so pressuring.”

Putin’s latest speech was “crushing”, she said

Meanwhile, today Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for the UN General Assembly to punish Russia for the invasion and alleged war crimes.

Many delegations gave him a standing ovation, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has since posted on social media, saying: “Aotearoa New Zealand stands firmly against the escalation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including mobilisation of Russian citizens and support for staging sham referenda in occupied parts of Ukraine”.

There were more than 7700 Russian people in Aotearoa, according to the last Census.





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