In a sad reminder of the humanity on all sides of a war, a famous rapper from Russia has ended his life after being drafted into Putin’s military.
A Russian rapper killed himself to avoid being conscripted to fight in Vladimir Putin‘s barbaric war in Ukraine amid an exodus sparked by the Kremlin dictator’s chaotic partial mobilization – as thousands of Russian men, women and children flee across the border to neighboring countries including Georgia.
Ivan Vitalievich Petunin, who went by the stage name Walkie, is believed to have committed suicide in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar today.
His body was found near a high-rise building on Congressnaya Street after the 27-year-old musician recorded a video message published on his Telegram channel in which he said that he did not want to kill for any ideals.
Petunin, who had previously served in the Russian Army and had been treated in a mental hospital, told his fans: ‘If you are watching this video, then I am no longer alive. I can’t take the sin of murder on my soul and I don’t want to. I am not ready to kill for any ideals’.
He also appeared to fear that Putin’s partial mobilization could soon turn into a full military draft, amid claims that Moscow is planning to call up 1million men to salvage the failing invasion.
After his death, Petunin’s published his farewell letter to her, before writing: ‘Vanya went to the high-rise building where we lived in the summer, everything was confirmed.’
More than 194,000 Russian citizens have fled to neighboring Georgia – which was invaded by Russia in 2008 – Kazakhstan and Finland since Putin announced a partial mobilization of reservists to bolster his troops in Ukraine. In more drastic cases, Russian men have resorted to breaking limbs to avoid being called-up.
In Russia, the vast majority of men under 65 are registered as reservists. Russia’s Defense Ministry has claimed it will only draft those who have combat or service experience, but according to multiple media reports and human rights advocates, men who do not fit the criteria are also being rounded up.
The official decree on mobilization, signed by Putin last week, is concise and vague, fueling fears of a broader draft.
In an apparent effort to calm the population, Putin told Russia’s Security Council on Thursday that mistakes had been made in the mobilization. He said that Russian men mistakenly called up for service should be sent back home, and that only reservists with proper training and specialties should be summoned to serve.
‘It’s necessary to deal with each such case independently, but if there is a mistake, I repeat, it must be fixed. It’s necessary to bring back those who were drafted without proper reason,’ the tyrant stressed.
The mass exodus of Russian men – alone or with their families or friends – began September 21, shortly after Putin’s address to the nation, and continued all this week. Airline tickets to destinations abroad have sold out days in advance, even at unprecedentedly high prices.
Long lines of cars formed on roads leading to Russia’s borders. Russian authorities tried to stem the outflow by turning back some men at the borders, citing mobilization laws, or setting up draft offices at border checkpoints.
The bus stations in Samara and Tolyatti, two large Russian cities in the Samara region, on Thursday halted service to Uralsk, a border city in Kazakhstan.
Russian authorities are opening more military enlistment offices near Russia’s borders in an apparent effort to intercept some of the Russian men of fighting age who are trying to flee the country by land to avoid getting called up to fight in Ukraine.
A new draft office opened at the Ozinki checkpoint in the Saratov region on Russia’s border with Kazakhstan, regional officials said Thursday. Another enlistment center was set to open at a crossing in the Astrakhan region, also on the border with Kazakhstan.
Earlier this week, makeshift Russian draft offices were set up near the Verkhny Lars border crossing into Georgia in southern Russia and near the Torfyanka checkpoint on Russia’s border with Finland. Russian officials said they would hand call-up notices to all eligible men who were trying to leave the country.
Finland’s border with Russia has been closed to Russians with tourist visas, cutting off one of the last easily accessible routes to Europe.
Long queues were reported until midnight at the border crossings. Among the last to enter Finland were two cyclists who arrived a little before 11pm, Finnish broadcaster YLE reported from Vaalimaa, one of the main border crossings between the Nordic country and Russia.
It came as the European Union’s top migration official urged the bloc’s 27 nations to clamp down on issuing visas to Russian citizens.
Finland has the longest border with Russia of all European Union member countries.
With the exception of the one border crossing between Russia and Norway, Finland had provided the last easily accessible land route to Europe for Russian holders of European Schengen Zone visas.
The Finnish government justified its decision by saying that continued arrivals of Russian tourists in Finland is endangering the country’s international relations, and cited security concerns related to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the ‘illegal’ referendums arranged by Russia in parts of Ukraine, and recent sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia under the Baltic Sea.
Russian citizens can still enter Finland for family reasons, study or work. Political dissidents may also seek to enter for humanitarian purposes.
As of September 1, Finland slashed the number of visas – including for tourism purposes – issued to Russian citizens to a 10th of the typical number, in a show of solidarity with Ukraine.
Earlier this week, Finnish border guards said they want a fence along the border, ‘due to the changing security environment’ in the Nordic country. Such a fence requires the approval of the Finnish parliament.
The fence would not run the entire 830-mile the border, but should be in ‘riskier areas, such as border crossings and their nearby areas’, the border guards said.
Norway said on Friday it was considering imposing an entry ban for Russians with Schengen visas. The Scandinavian country has a border in the Arctic with Russia which is 123 miles long. The sole crossing point is at Storskog.
‘We will close the border quickly if necessary, and changes can come at short notice,’ justice minister Emilie Enger Mehl said.
EU migration commissioner Ylva Johansson said Russia’s annexing of four Ukrainian regions is ‘clearly an escalation and that means also an escalation of the security threat towards the European Union’.
She urged EU countries to enforce more stringent checks on Russian citizens and deny documents to anyone who might pose a threat.
Ms Johansson said EU authorities must stop short-term visa holders from Russia from renewing them in Europe. ‘If a Russian person intends to stay longer than 90 days in the EU, he or she should not be issued a visa,’ she told reporters.
She also said Russians who have fled the country should not be allowed to apply for visas abroad.
‘They have to do that from their home country, Russia,’ she said, but underlined that they should be allowed in for humanitarian reasons, or other exceptional circumstances.
Ms Johansson also urged countries to reassess whether already valid visas should have been issued. She said that none of the measures the European Commission is recommending would stop Russian citizens from applying for asylum in Europe.
‘The right to have a short-term visa into the EU is not a fundamental right. It’s privilege. The right to apply for asylum is a fundamental right,’ she said.
It comes as an increasingly unhinged Putin ludicrously boasted ‘victory will be ours’ seven months into his squalid invasion of Ukraine after the Russian tyrant illegally annexed four territories from Kyiv in the biggest military land grab since the Second World War.
The warmonger told thousands of flag-waving Russians gathered outside the gates of the Kremlin for a celebratory concert in Moscow’s Red Square that people in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions had chosen to rejoin their ‘historic motherland’ – after his regime staged fake referendums there and rigged the outcomes at gunpoint.
Flanked by the leaders of their Russian-backed administrations as the multi-colored spires of the 16th century St Basil’s Cathedral loomed in the background, Putin vowed that Moscow would do everything to support the newly annexed regions, boost their security and rebuild their economies.
He then proclaimed: ‘Welcome home!’, before prompting chants of ‘Russia! Russia!’ from the enormous crowd gathered in the vast square.
Huge video screens showed Putin leading the spectators in three cheers of ‘Hurrah’ for the annexed territories, followed by a rendition of the national anthem. Many in the crowd of thousands waved Russian flags as entertainers from across Russia and occupied parts of Ukraine performed patriotic songs. Russian media reports said that employees of state-run companies and institutions were told to attend, and that students were allowed to skip classes,
It comes after a desperate and erratic Putin snarled that the four occupied Ukrainian regions would remain part of Russia ‘forever’ for 40 minutes during an official ceremony where he seized the territories – before launching into a rant about Western ‘Satanism’ and colonialism.
At his signing ceremony in the Kremlin’s ornate St George’s Hall, Putin accused the West of fueling the hostilities as part of what he called a plan to turn Russia into a ‘colony’ and a ‘crowd of soulless slaves.’ The hardening of his position, in the conflict that has killed and wounded tens of thousands of people, further raised tensions already at levels unseen since the Cold War.
In his unhinged address, Putin insisted that Ukraine must treat the Kremlin-managed votes ‘with respect’ – before accusing the US and its allies of seeking to destroy Russia. His speech was littered with bizarre references ranging from Britain’s Opium Wars in China in the 19th century to gender reassignment – before ominously threatening to use nuclear weapons in the event of an attack on Russia, including the four newly annexed Ukrainian territories.
Moscow has backed eastern Ukraine’s separatist Donetsk and Luhansk regions since declaring independence in 2014, weeks after the annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Russia captured the southern Kherson region and part of neighboring Zaporizhzhia soon after Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24 this year.
Both houses of the Duma, Russia’s puppet parliament, will meet next week to rubber-stamp the treaties for the regions to join Russia.
Putin’s land grab and a partial troop mobilization were attempts to avoid more battlefield defeats that could threaten his 22-year rule. By formalizing Russia’s gains, he seemingly hopes to scare Ukraine and its Western backers with an increasingly escalatory conflict unless they back down – which they show no signs of doing.
Russia controls most of the Luhansk and Kherson regions, about 60% of the Donetsk region and a large chunk of the Zaporizhzhia region, where it seized Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
Western countries responded with an avalanche of condemnation, more punishment for Russia and aid for Ukraine. The US announced sanctions for more than 1,000 people and firms connected to Russia’s invasion, including its Central Bank governor.
Of Putin’s annexation of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, President Joe Biden said: ‘Make no mistake: These actions have no legitimacy.’
The European Union said its 27 member states will never recognize the illegal referendums that Russia organized ‘as a pretext for this further violation of Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.’
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called it ‘the largest attempted annexation of European territory by force since the Second World War.’
The war is at ‘a pivotal moment,’ he said, and Putin’s decision to annex more territory – Russia claims sovereignty over 15% of Ukraine – marks ‘the most serious escalation since the start of the war.’ Stoltenberg was noncommittal on Zelensky’s fast-track NATO application, saying alliance leaders ‘support Ukraine’s right to choose its own path, to decide what kind of security arrangements it wants to be part of.’
Zelensky vowed to keep fighting, defying Putin’s warnings that Kyiv shouldn’t try to take back what it has lost.
‘The entire territory of our country will be liberated from this enemy,’ he said. ‘Russia already knows this. It feels our power.’
The immediate ramifications of the ‘accelerated’ NATO application weren’t clear, since approval requires members’ unanimous support. The supply of Western weapons to Ukraine has, however, already put it closer to the alliance’s orbit.
‘De facto, we have already proven compatibility with alliance standards,’ Zelensky said. ‘We trust each other, we help each other, and we protect each other.’
But the Kremlin is on the verge of another stinging military loss, with reports of the imminent Ukrainian encirclement of the eastern city of Lyman. Retaking it could open the path for Ukraine to push deep into Luhansk, one of the annexed regions.
‘It looks quite pathetic. Ukrainians are doing something, taking steps in the real material world, while the Kremlin is building some kind of a virtual reality, incapable of responding in the real world,’ former Kremlin speechwriter-turned-analyst Abbas Gallyamov said, adding that ‘the Kremlin cannot offer anything comforting to the Russians.’
Russia pounded Ukrainian cities with missiles, rockets and suicide drones in Moscow’s heaviest barrage in weeks, with one strike in the Zaporizhzhia region’s capital killing 30 and wounding 88.
In the Zaporizhzhia attack, anti-aircraft missiles that Russia has repurposed as ground-attack weapons rained down on people waiting in cars to cross into Russian-occupied territory so they could bring family members back across front lines, said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office.
Russian-installed officials in Zaporizhzhia blamed Ukrainian forces, but gave no evidence.
The strike left deep craters and sent shrapnel tearing through the humanitarian convoy, killing passengers. Nearby buildings were demolished. Trash bags, blankets and, for one victim, a blood-soaked towel, covered the bodies.
A Ukrainian counteroffensive has deprived Moscow of battlefield mastery. Its hold of the Luhansk region appears increasingly shaky, as Ukrainian forces make inroads with the pincer assault on Lyman, a key node for Russian military operations in the Donbas and a sought-after prize in Ukraine’s counteroffensive. The Russian-backed separatist leader of Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, said Ukrainian forces have ‘half-encircled’ Lyman. Ukraine maintains a large foothold in the neighboring Donetsk region.
Russian strikes were also reported in the city of Dnipro. Regional Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said at least three people were killed and five were wounded.
Ukraine’s air force said the southern cities of Mykolaiv and Odesa were targeted with Iranian-supplied suicide drones that Russia has increasingly deployed, seemingly to avoid losing more pilots who don’t control Ukraine’s skies.
Italy’s new far-right leader Georgia Meloni – whose political partners have questioned sanctions against Russia – said that Putin ‘threatens the security of the entire European continent’. The leaders of Poland, the Netherlands and Greece also condemned the decision.
Russia is also continuing to attack the regions it now claims as part of its own country, firing a rocket at a humanitarian convoy of cars in Zaporizhzhia earlier in the day – killing at least 25 civilians and wounding 50 in the process. The cars were heading into Russian-occupied territory to distribute aid, Ukrainian officials said.
President Zelensky branded Russia ‘bloodthirsty scum’ after the blast, adding: ‘Only complete terrorists could do this. You will definitely answer [for it]. For every lost Ukrainian life!’
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, one of Zelensky’s senior advisers, said Russia had fired a total of 16 S-300 anti-aircraft missiles at Ukrainian territory, four of which landed – destroying the queue of cars along with a nearby car market.
Photos from Zaporizhzhia showed a road littered with blown-out cars and at least two bodies lying on the ground, as survivors picked their way through the rubble.
One witness reported seeing about 12 bodies, four of them in cars, and said a missile had left a crater in the ground near two lines of vehicles at a car market.
The impact had thrown chunks of dirt ino the air and sprayed the vehicles with shrapnel. The windows of the vehicles – mostly cars and three vans, were blown out.
The vehicles were packed with belongings, blankets and suitcases.
In one of them, the body of a man was leaned from the driver’s seat into the passenger seat, his left hand still clutching the steering wheel.
Oleksandr Starukh, governor of Zaporizhzhia, wrote on Telegram: ‘ The enemy launched a rocket attack on a civilian humanitarian convoy on the way out of the regional center.
‘People stood in line to leave for the temporarily occupied territory, to pick up their relatives, to take away aid.
‘Rescuers, medics, and all relevant services are currently working at the site.’
Plastic sheets were draped over the bodies of a woman and young man in a green car in the next car in front. A dead cat lay next to the young man in the rear seat.
Two bodies lay in a white mini-van in front of that car, its windows blown and the sides pitted with shrapnel.
A woman who gave her name as Nataliya said she and her husband had been visiting their children in Zaporizhzhia.
‘We were returning to my mother who is 90 years old. We have been spared. It’s a miracle,’ she said, standing with her husband beside their car.
Russia denied being responsible for the strike, instead blaming it on Ukraine.
From today, Putin will be able to spin the lie – to his own people at least – that Ukrainian efforts to liberate these regions are in fact attacks on Russia.
Provided the public buy into the lie, that would allow him to escalate the war in response – potentially up to and including the use of nukes.
Putin himself threatened to use nuclear arms in a speech last week, and his allies – including Dmitry Medvedev, head of the security council – have repeated the threat several times since then.
The Kremlin dictator last night signed decrees recognizing Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the country’s south and east as states independent of Volodymyr Zelensky‘s Government – a precursor to Putin’s deranged plot to illegally absorb 15% of Ukrainian territory into the Russian Federation.
At an official ceremony in St George’s Hall in the Grand Kremlin Palace today, where marble plaques engraved in gold commemorate Russian military heroes, Putin will preside over a treaty-signing proclaiming the annexation of four regions of Ukraine – the breakaway People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
The Russian annexation will then be followed by planned celebratory concerts and rallies in the occupied territories and Moscow’s Red Square, where Putin is expected to outline his view on why Ukraine has no right to an independent existence.
The stage-managed exercise follows a bogus five-day voting process across Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk that was entirely rigged in favor of becoming part of Putin’s Russia. Moscow’s proxies in the occupied regions claimed majorities of up to 99% in favor of joining. However, Ukraine and Western governments described those votes as bogus, illegitimate and conducted at gunpoint.
MPs in the Duma, Russia’s puppet parliament, are expected to rubber stamp the move next week. It is a carbon copy of Moscow’s approach in 2014 when it held a fake referendum in Crimea as a pretext for moving in and seizing the Ukrainian peninsula.
The annexation comes at a perilous moment for Putin. After months of grinding, attritional warfare, Ukraine seized the initiative this month by routing Russian forces in the northeastern Kharkiv region.
And Putin last week declared an unpopular partial mobilization, prompting thousands of fighting-age men to flee the country. Even staunch Kremlin allies have criticized the chaotic nature of the call-up, while Putin himself said yesterday ‘all mistakes must be corrected’.
Kyiv said that the annexation votes will not stop their armed forces from trying to retake its illegally stolen land, vowing a ‘harsh’ response. For its part, Russia pledges to defend all its territory – including newly annexed regions – by all available means, including nuclear weapons.
Ukraine’s Western supporters have described the stage-managed referendums on whether to live under Russian rule as a bald-faced ‘land grab’ based on lies.
They say some people were forced to vote at gunpoint in an election without independent observers on territory from which thousands of residents have fled or been forcibly deported.