An activist of the Russian Republic of Dagestan has said there is no support for Russia’s war on Ukraine. Speaking in an interview with Kyiv Post, Ali Charinskiy, head of the media office of the Free Caucasus public movement, said last week’s rally against mobilization was the first protest of any kind in the republic in the last 10 years. He added that the protest was simmering due to other reasons. Charinskiy also discussed the situation in Dagestan.

Mass protests against partial mobilization began in Makhachkala, the capital of Russia’s  Republic of Dagestan on Thursday, Sep. 22, the day after Vladimir Putin announced the news. Locals don’t want to put up with the fact that their husbands, sons and brothers will be sent to fight and be killed in Russia’s war on  Ukraine. The police began to beat  protesters for their open stance, and some arrests were made.

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A new rally against mobilization was scheduled for Friday, Sep. 30, though it was unclear whether people would be prepared to go out into the streets for fear of Putin’s regime.

What is the current situation in Dagestan? Are rallies against the announced mobilization continue?

When people organized protests in the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, officials came and talked to them, everything was calm. But in Makhachkala protesters were beaten. The authorities wanted to show they were being manipulated by Ukraine. They could not allow protests in the republic – the intimidated region where not a single rally had been held for 10 years. Dagestan holds the record for the number of people killed, expelled from the country, and intellectuals who expressed their opinion jailed.

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Sources told Kyiv Post that various brands of gasoline and diesel fuel with a total volume of 12.5 thousand cubic meters were stored there.

But this time people came out to protest because they are angry, they don’t want their children to die as a result of Putin’s ambitions. Therefore, the authorities could not afford this rally to be held. Propagandists began to spread rumors, blaming Ukraine for calling for the protests. The regime made it seem as if people were rioting, although it was mostly women and teenagers took part in the rally. So, no- one actually intended to organize any riots.

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Are new protests planned in the near future?

It is hard to say. There is an assumption that people will organize a protest on Friday, Sep. 30, which is a day off for Muslims.

But now it’s very difficult to understand what is happening, because there are those against whom criminal cases have been brought  for taking part in the protest. And this scares the others.

Do you know who the main instigator of the protests is? Is this the Telegram channel Utro Dagestan (Morning Dagestan)?

At first, the calls came from there. This Telegram channel was ahead of everyone else on this topic. But when its founders started calling for resistance group activity, people saw it as a provocation.

Why?

Women and children came out. What resistance activity [can there be]?

People are afraid. People do not have the strength to conduct resistance activities.

The whole point is that Russian propaganda is also taking advantage of the fact that Utro Dagestan allegedly called people to the rally. But it doesn’t matter who issued the first call. People have been discussing this for a long time, they have been pushed to the edge, especially after the announcement of partial mobilization. These mothers would come out anyway.

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I would like to add why the rest of Russia did not support. “Russia is Putin” is a slogan that not only glorifies the fascist. It is a violent element for connecting all the regions that make up the Russian Federation. When the liberal opposition protests, the Caucasus does not support: the Caucasus doesn’t care whether it is Putin’s regime or the liberal opposition. They perceive any political power as alien.

Also, when the Caucasus region revolts or protests, the rest of Russia does not support it. This is a strong indicator. And, apparently, they should have supported it, because the whole world is watching Dagestan.

But there is a clear division in the Russian Federation: the Caucasus is the Caucasus, Russia is Russia. And this is the attitude of all political forces.

That is, “Russia is Putin” is not just a slogan. This is a violent way of preserving the territorial integrity of the country.

Do you think many people will come to the rally scheduled for Friday [Sep. 30]?

Putin has extensive experience of using violence to suppress  protests and wriggling out of any protest by maintaining his authority. When there were rallies in Khabarovsk, the police did not touch people, while in Moscow protesters were beaten. The same was seen in Dagestan. Somewhere officials engage in dialogue, while in Makhachkala people were struck blows. Putin knows what mood people have, and how they will react. The authorities understood that if protesters were met peacefully in Dagestan, thousands would come out the next day, because forceful mobilization is another reason for repression against our people.

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How many residents of the region were involved in the so-called special military operation [in Ukraine] prior to the announcement of partial mobilization?

Let me start with the fact that our region is deliberately being kept in poverty. Dagestan shares an oil and gas plateau with Azerbaijan. It helps our neighbors to earn money. Dagestan also has many of these resources, but they are mothballed to keep the republic in a poor condition. Therefore, people are offered an alternative – service in the Interior Ministry, FSB and contract service in the army.

Before the war with Ukraine, contract service was an easy way to earn big money. That is, you are not sent anywhere, there is no war anywhere, you are simply enlisted in the army and receive money with which you can feed a large family. But when they started sending people to fight against Ukraine, everyone realized that signing a contract was a mistake, because many men from Dagestan were transferred to the war in Ukraine.

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When forceful mobilization was announced, people came out and said it was Russia that attacked Ukraine, that this was not our war. The protesters made it clear that society is not stupid, and is aware of what is happening.

Is this region really one of the leaders in terms of those killed in the war with Ukraine?

Yes. But this is a temporary phenomenon.

No funeral in Dagestan can be hidden. We have a tradition that many people attend a funeral. That is why we stand out from the rest.

When the number of victims in other regions becomes known, Dagestan will probably not be in first place.

Have many already been mobilized?

The numbers are still not known. But there are lots of photos and video clips with men running from police officers, many are hiding, some are leaving the republic.

Young men are given call-up papers, but they refuse to take them. They are brought to the police, threatened with criminal proceedings and imprisonment. That is why many are asking whether they can be sent to the front directly from prison. After all, we know that Putin’s friend Yevgeny Prigozhin [founder of the Wagner private military company] is sending Russian prisoners to fight in the war in Ukraine.

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What is the condition of those who were detained at the rally?

About 150 people were detained at the protests. Criminal cases were initiated against approximately 10 people, and administrative cases against others.

What do they say in Dagestan about the war in Ukraine? Did they understand from the very first days there that it was Russia that invaded Ukraine?

Not from the first days, because dissent is prohibited in the republic, as is the case throughout the country. Independent mass media outlets are also banned.

Therefore, while in Ukraine, I returned to my social and political activities, started blogging and saying what is really happening. People like me and other Dagestani bloggers abroad have been spreading the word to warn people against signing a contract for military service. This goal has been attained, no more contracts are being  signed. No-one believed in the fairy tale that there were no casualties in the war with Ukraine.

After a few months, it was possible to gain the understanding in Dagestan that the situation in Ukraine is not as good for the Russian army as the Kremlin media describes it. And now no-one supports the war, and people understands that Ukraine is the victim.

You have repeated several times that people in Dagestan are afraid that terrible times may return, including repression, murder of activists. Do you think this fear can be overcome somehow? After all, if you are afraid all the time, you will not be able to change anything.

You see, Putin is doing everything so that this fear does not disappear, he is taking steps to do this.

It is also obvious that the Caucasian community does not associate itself with Russia. This is already a big step. But time is still needed.

There is also talk now that if Dagestan continues to openly oppose the Kremlin’s decisions and is not afraid, then it could undermine Putin’s system and even induce other regions to protest. Do you agree with this?

One mother on Red Square can put an end to Putin’s regime.

But then the question arises: who will replace Putin? It is not difficult to remove a crazy person from power. What will happen next is what is important.

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