Partial social mobility. How Moscow men were rounded up at homeless assistance centers, hostels and rehearsal studios—to fight in Ukraine
Дмитрий Швец
Partial social mobility. How Moscow men were rounded up at homeless assistance centers, hostels and rehearsal studios—to fight in Ukraine
28 October 2022, 8:37

«Ангар спасения». Фото: Sergei Ilnitsky / EPA / ТАСС

During the fourth week of the mobilisation, the reports of police and military draft officials presence in random places in Moscow intensified, with men being rounded up at homeless assistance centers, cheap hostels for migrant workers, rehearsal studios, and offices. Here are their stories.

Food Not Bombs, a Moscow left-wing initiative, gives free food to those in need each Sunday at a park near Kursky railway station in central Moscow, frequented by homeless people. On October 9, the group warned on its Telegram channel that one of their ‘clients’ had complained about an attempt to draft the homeless men.

According to him, on the evening of October 8, the policemen arrived at the Angar Spaseniya shelter run by an Orthodox Christian group Miloserdie, took the homeless men’s passports away, put them on buses, and took them to the police station.

The next day, Food Not Bombs activists went on to interview a homeless man who had managed to avoid the draft due to his old age.

The bus arrived empty, and then they loaded about 20–25 men on board. There were two policemen and two ‘buyers’—military draft officials from the centre that had just opened in the Museum of Moscow. They were working at that army draft centre.”

The man added that those coming to Angar Spaseniya are not simply underprivileged, they are homeless. He said that it was precisely the reason why the police raid happened there in the first place: the homeless are a particularly vulnerable group of people, and no one’s going to stand up for them.

The activists have spoken to two more people who receive aid from Angar Spaseniya. A homeless woman told them that the buses were coming three days straight, picking up 20–25 people each ride. “They took a sixty-year-old man, and then he came back, they let him go. The man said that people were being taken to the military draft office. Many people were waiting in lines, all being handed draft notices of the “partial mobilisation”. He was told his age wasn’t acceptable as they only took men under 45,” she told Food Not Bombs.

“When the policemen come here, they don’t ask questions. They see a line of people who came for food and grab them against their will,” another man said.

One of the homeless remembered how the policemen “used a bit of force.” Another man said that there was no physical violence, but people were pushed ‘mentally.’ The police said: “If you don’t sign the draft papers, you get punished—badly.”

Angar Spaseniya phone operator told Mediazona that it was “just a routine papers check.” True or not, another Moscow organization that helps the homeless is also aware of these mobilisation raids: “One of our visitors acknowledged that [the mobilisation raid] did indeed happen.”

Lana Zhurkina, the founder of the Dom Druzey initiative, stressed that she was aware of the cases when the homeless had been drafted, but not in a violent way. “I know people, among the homeless, who have signed contracts and were sent off to protect civilian property out there. I see no problem here and don’t try to find some breaking news here. Even if the government calls someone into military service, this is within the law, and those who meet the requirements must go,” she said.

The homeless assistance centre isn’t the only place where the Moscow military was looking for potential recruits. Medizona was contacted by a man, who claimed to be a guest of the Travel Inn hostel in Oktyabrskiy lane. According to him, around noon on October 8, the police sealed off the hostel perimeter and started checking the rooms and requesting the papers. 

“They took the passports of those who had served in the army and told them to come to the draft office by 9 a. m. next day. Those with no military experience were let go. The next day, the raid repeated, but they didn’t enter the rooms. They took away four men, but later let them go,” he said. The man added that that hostel is frequented by “blue-collar workers, taxi drivers, low-level managers, couriers, shop assistants.”

The hostel owners told RTVi channel that the police did come looking for men to hand draft papers. “Two guests of the hostel [27 and 30 years old] were mobilised, and another one is getting ready to be sent to the army,” the report said. 

The officials are scrambling to find new draftees, searching for them even at the music rehearsal studios. “As far as I know, they didn’t touch the clients. My mate showed them the documents: B category, and all that. They told him he would need to go to the military draft office to iron out the details,” an administrator of Red Gates and Under the Ground studios told the Village.

In office spaces, the situation was pretty similar. Igor, an administrator of a photo studio in central Moscow, told Mediazona that on October 11, a man came to his office asking who worked with him, and what his job was. Igor responded, and the man left, returning with two policemen shortly after. They requested Igor’s documents and sent him to a police van. He spent about an hour inside; nine more men were detained during that period. 

All of them were taken to a draft office. Igor refused to sign the draft notice; military officials were unsure what to do with him. Igor was talking to Mediazona from the office, he was not allowed to go outside. The following day, he said that he received a document confirming the impossibility of the draft and was let go. 

On October 17, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced the completion of the mobilisation effort in the capital.

Editor: Dmitry Tkachev

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