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Russian reservists recruited during a partial mobilization of troops attend a ceremony before departing to the Russia-Ukraine conflict zone, in the Rostov region, Russia October 31, 2022.

REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov

What We're Watching: Russian draft goes online, abortion pill ruling, US inflation slows, Taiwan gets new presidential candidate, Biden bets big on EVs

Russia’s digital draft

If you’re a young male citizen of Russia, it just got harder for you to hide from the war in Ukraine. The State Duma, Russia’s parliament, approved legislation on Tuesday that allows the government to send a military summons online instead of serving the papers in person. The upper house swiftly passed it into law on Wednesday.

“The summons is considered received from the moment it is placed in the personal account of a person liable for military service,” explains the chairman of the Duma’s defense committee, though the Kremlin insists no large-scale draft is imminent. If the person summoned fails to report for service within 20 days of the date listed on the summons, the state can suspend his driver’s license, deny him the right to travel abroad, and make it impossible for him to get a loan.

The database that provides names of potential draftees is assembled from medical, educational, and residential records, as well as insurance and tax data. Thousands of young Russians have already fled their country. Many more may soon try to join them.

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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy awards a Ukrainian service member at a position near a frontline, in Donetsk region, Ukraine March 22, 2023.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: Zelensky’s Bakhmut message, Rishi’s post-Brexit win, Trudeau’s take on Haiti, Ethiopia’s peace progress

Russia and Ukraine score points where they can

Volodymyr Zelensky visited frontline troops in war-ravaged Bakhmut, located in Ukraine’s eastern province of Donetsk, on Wednesday as Russian drones struck across the country. While planning for the trip was surely well underway before Vladimir Putin’s surprise stop in Russian-occupied Mariupol last weekend, the contrast underlined Zelenksy’s signal of defiance.

By appearing in Bakhmut very near the fighting, Zelensky reminded the world that, six months after Putin mobilized 300,000 new Russian soldiers for a deeper advance into Ukraine, even the small city of Bakhmut remains beyond their grasp.

In other war news, Russia has warned it will respond harshly to shipments from the UK to Ukraine of anti-tank munitions made from depleted uranium. Moscow claims this step adds an escalatory nuclear element to the conflict. In response, the UK insists the Russian position is propaganda, that the use of depleted uranium is common in anti-tank weapons, and that it contains nothing that can be used to make nuclear or radiological weapons. Finally, Russia has announced a plan to raise an additional $8 billion in revenue by changing the way oil profits are taxed.

All these stories underscore the reality that, while little has changed on the battlefield, Russians and Ukrainians are still looking for every small advantage they can gain in what looks increasingly like a war of attrition.

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