'Daddy, bye': Tearful children and spouses pictured waving off Russian men as mobilisation begins

People have been pictured being herded onto buses in locations across Russia. Credit: @poli_golobokova/@taygainfo/Twitter

Tearful children and spouses have been pictured waving off Russian fathers and husbands as Vladimir Putin's mobilisation begins.

"Daddy, goodbye," one child is heard to cry before apparently bursting into tears.

The Russian president has brought his war in Ukraine home to Russia.

For more than seven months, lives have been turned upside down in Ukraine; families have been torn apart by conflict and bombed out of their homes

Most Russians have been spared the horrors of war and the agony of saying goodbye to their loved ones, but a series of military defeats now mean President Putin is calling on them as he seeks to bolster his forces in Ukraine.

As some men are being drafted, others are trying to avoid being called up, with one man saying he has gone into hiding.

Huge tailbacks have occurred at Russia's borders with Mongolia, Buryatia, Kazakhstan and Georgia as people try to cross country borders - while others receive early morning call-ups

Yanina Nimaeva's husband, father to her five children, received a call from a woman who said: "I need to tell you immediately, at 4am you have to go to the cultural centre and at 2pm you will already be on a train to Chita."

Shortly after that, he was called up.

"My 38-year-old husband is not in the reserves and has never served. His colleagues called him yesterday…and asked him ‘where are you? They will bring you a draft notice now',” she said in a video posted on a Russian social media group.

"I understand we need to send four thousand people for the partial mobilisation from our republic [in far eastern Russia] but should there not be a limit to this?"

From the far south to the far east of Russia, people have been pictured being herded onto buses as 300,000 Russians are called up to bolster President Putin's war in Ukraine. One video shows a young man reportedly being called up at 2am in the morning.

In the town of Neryungri, in the Russian Far East, men filed out of the local stadium and onto buses, drafted almost immediately after President Putin announced that he was launching a "partial mobilisation".

Neryungri is closer to Japan than Moscow. It is more than 8,000 kilometres away from Ukraine, where the men may soon be sent to fight.

In scenes repeated in videos posted from many rural towns across Russia, the men hug their loved ones; women cry, wipe their tears and children are held up to buses to kiss their fathers through the window.

As some men are being drafted, others are trying to avoid being called up.

"I worry my parents will call me and say 'your call-up papers are here.' Will someone come to give me the papers near the metro? Will they take me while I'm walking on the street?" Oleg, not his real name, told ITV News in Moscow.

"It is really hard to live like this. I can order takeaway food, work at home and minimise my contact with the outside world. I will pretty much go into hiding."

"I did military service and I'm in the group of people they might call up although when I was in the army, I just worked with documents. I have absolutely no combat experience whatsoever. I learned to shoot - that's it."

Although the Russian defence minister has said only those who have served, have a military specialty or who have combat experience will be called up, there are widespread reports of people being drafted who have no military experience.

In a video from Buryatia, in eastern Siberia, a man who appears to be from the Russian military lectured a room of men about the importance of discipline and basic medical training.

"Do not ignore any instructions. You must learn how to bandage yourself. Medical instructors will conduct classes, and provide medical care, because people are dying from elementary blood loss because someone cannot bandage a wound."

"You are going to fight after this training, so take this seriously," the man told the room of men in Kurumkan, a town on the eastern side of Lake Baikal, almost 7,000 miles from Ukraine.

Brushing off questions from the men who asked where they would be going, he said recent changes to the Russian criminal code mean that desertion - along with surrender and refusing to fight - are now a criminal offence.

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President Putin's "partial mobilisation" has sparked widespread panic.

"Putin is a killer," Evgeny, who was conscripted into the Russian army and lives in a town in southern Russia, told ITV News, speaking on the basis of anonymity.

"In Russia now everyone just feels fear. In everyone I see in the street, in everyone's eyes, there is just fear."

In groups on popular messaging apps, Russians are discussing the best way to get out of the country. Videos show long queues at Russia's borders with Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Georgia where Russians do not need a visa to cross.

At the Georgia-Russia border, those fleeing are warned that the crossing time has increased from one hour to around 24 hours as traffic backs up following President Putin's announcement. There is reportedly no queue for traffic going the other way into Russia.

"Is it better to take my suitcase, walk through the traffic jam on foot and then pay someone to get in the car and cross the border that way?" one man asks.

"I hear they are closing the border from 1st October, does anyone know about that?" a woman writes.

In chat groups with tens of thousands of participants, Russians share information about their border-crossing experiences.

Some say they cross with no issues, others have reportedly been questioned for several hours, asked if they have ever served in the military or told to open their mobile phones and provide the phone serial number.

It is unclear what impact President Putin's mobilisation drive will have on the war in Ukraine but it is clear that it is unpopular with many Russians.

Since the war in Ukraine began, there have been few protests in Russia, particularly since the country introduced draconian laws cracking down on free speech and threatening anyone spreading "fake" information about the Russian military with a 15-year prison sentence.

Security forces detain a demonstrator in Yekaterinburg. Credit: AP

After President Putin's announcement, Russians defied those laws and took to the streets in a number of cities across the country to protest against the call up.

"Send Putin to the trenches," they shouted in Moscow. "Let our children live."

In punishment, some of the protesters were given their draft notices straight from the police station according to Eva Levenberg, a lawyer for the independent monitoring group OVD-Info.

"Around 30 to 50 men were given their call up papers in ten police stations, sometimes by unidentified people in civilian clothes," Ms Levenberg told ITV News.

"They didn't take into account fitness or what the conscription order actually said. They gave them to everyone, even to the permanently disabled."

According to Ms Levenberg, those who refused the draft had cases drawn up against them under Russia's new law which threatens refuseniks with a prison sentence.

However, not everyone is against Putin's mobilisation drive.

"My dad is a former police lieutenant colonel," Oleg told ITV News.

"I told him 'if they come to get me, I won't fight, I can't.' And he told me, 'If they come home to ask us, I will tell them where you are.

"My dad is a patriot. He thinks this is patriotic and that the main mission is to defend my family and to fight back." Oleg said.

"I don't understand why he wants to do this. Any healthy, sane person does not send their child to war. It's not even as if they [Ukraine] attacked us, it's not as if our cities were reduced to dust."

Support for President Putin remains strong in a country where the dominant source of information is state television which shows a highly selective pro-Kremlin view of the war in Ukraine.

While there have been some signs of discontent in Russia with pro-Kremlin bloggers and some Putin allies questioning the country's Ministry of Defence over its performance in Ukraine, President Putin personally has, thus far, largely escaped criticism.

"Putin is not the only person who created this situation [in Ukraine]," Oleg told ITV News. "Nobody needs this war but there is no threat to Putin here in Russia."

"This smells of the Third World War but Putin is not in trouble," Evgeny agreed.

"Putin is sick and our society is broken but unfortunately Russia will continue to exist in the way it does now. I don't know how we can change it."