President Vladimir V. Putin acknowledged “mistakes” Thursday in the way the Russian government has been carrying out his draft, a sign of the Kremlin’s struggle to stave off public discontent over Putin’s effort to escalate the war in Ukraine.
In televised remarks to senior security officials, Putin said the draft had raised “many questions” and that “all mistakes must be corrected and prevented from occurring in the future.” He described cases of people entitled to poorly worded extensions, such as fathers of three or more children, men with chronic illnesses, or men of military age.
“If a mistake is made, I repeat, it must be corrected,” he said in a video conference with his Security Council. “Those who were called up without a proper reason should be sent home.”
Putin’s comments, shown on state television Thursday night, came after anger over conscription spread to street protests across Russia, including in an impoverished region of Siberia on Thursday.
They also came on the same day the Kremlin announced it would hold a ceremony Friday to begin absorbing four Ukrainian territories, in a widely discredited annexation effort that Antony J. Blinken, the US secretary of state, condemned as a new annexation attempt. land grabbing in Ukraine.
Putin’s comments were remarkable for a leader who rarely admits mistakes, even as he blamed the failings of his policy on lower-level officials.
While Putin indicated when he announced the draft last week that only men with combat experience and the necessary skills would be called up, the draft turned out to be much larger, with residents of small towns and villages reporting that recruiting offices were getting large portions of their fit men.
“You have to solve all this,” Putin said. “No fuss, calmly, but quickly, in detail and in depth.”