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Ukraine’s president urged Russian citizens to protest Vladimir Putin’s order to mobilise at least 300,000 men to fight in the war and called for soldiers called into duty to “run away” or surrender.

“55,000 Russian soldiers died in this war within six months. Tens of thousands are wounded and maimed. Do you want more? No? Then protest. Fight back. Run away. Or surrender to Ukrainian captivity. These are options for you to survive,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a Thursday evening video address that was delivered partially in Russian language.

Putin recently ordered the “partial mobilisation” of 300,000 army reservists to support its campaign in Ukraine. Widespread antiwar protests in cities across Russia followed Putin’s announcement. More than 500 people were detained.

“Russia’s decision to mobilise is a frank admission that their personnel army, which was prepared for decades to take over a foreign country, could not stand it and crumbled,” Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy recalled how Ukraine’s forces repelled a Russian advance into Kyiv and referenced the Ukrainian counteroffensive earlier this month that recaptured previously occupied territory in the northeastern Kharkiv region. He pledged to liberate all 15 per cent of territory still occupied in far eastern and southern regions.

“It is a choice to die or live, to become crippled or to preserve health. For women in Russia, the choice is to lose their husbands, sons, and grandchildren forever, or to try to protect them from death, from war, from one person,” Zelenskyy said, referring to Putin.

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