Russians in New Zealand devastated by Putin’s call for troops, nuclear threat

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Some people in Russia are preparing to go into hiding after Vladimir Putin’s latest speech, RNZ has been told.
Photo: UKTN / TASS Host Photo Agency

The New Zealand-based Russians opposing the war in Ukraine have described Vladimir Putin’s latest televised speech as “completely appalling” and “shattering”.

Putin announced the mobilization of 300,000 military reserves and said the federation had “many weapons” to counter nuclear threats.

Elena Nikiforova who is from Russia

Elena Nikiforova
Photo: Delivered

Elena Nikiforova, originally from Moscow, told RNZ that Putin’s speech panicked her Russian friends and family and she knew some people who were preparing to go into hiding.

“I felt sick to my stomach and immediately got a pounding headache when I read this news.”

As people tried to flee Russia for fear of conscription, flights sold out and queues formed at the borders.

Nikiforova said Putin’s words were a “total nightmare” and “completely horrific”.

“People [have] calls me and texts me constantly, all night and this morning. And so I only slept four hours this night [Wednesday].”

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Nikiforova spoke to a friend this morning, who was concerned about her son’s future.

“He’s healthy, so he’ll be fit for military service. And she was in complete hysteria… not knowing what to do or how to actually save her son.’

Ekaterina, also from Moscow, said Putin’s leadership made her feel hopeless.

“It’s just getting out of hand. I feel despair, like nothing really can be done about it.”

Her father was a former pilot and was afraid he would be called up to fight.

“He is certainly considering options to leave Russia.”

But Ekaterina said her family had it much easier than others across the border.

“These challenges are nothing compared to what the Ukrainian people are going through.”

Humanitarian aid distributed to civilians after the Ukrainian army liberated the city of Balakliya in Ukraine's southeastern Kharkiv Oblast on September 11, 2022.

A woman says that while the Russians are panicking, it is nothing compared to the suffering of the Ukrainians.
Photo: Metin Aktas / Anadolu Agency via UKTN

Yaroslav Sergeev, originally from Siberia, was angry about the speech, especially Putin’s nuclear remarks.

“Nobody knows what to expect from Putin and the political elites. They are all…criminals in my opinion.”

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Andrey, who was Russian and Ukrainian, said many of his male college friends from Russia had already fled during the war to avoid being forced to fight.

“They basically left everything they had in Russia and just ran away, like some to Armenia, some to Turkey.”

Protesters outside the Russian embassy in Wellington

A protest at the Russian embassy in Wellington tonight.
Photo: RNZ / Soumya Bhamidipati

Fear of Nuclear War

Natalia, from Eastern Russia, had a family in the military. They hadn’t been deployed to the front line, but soon would be.

But her main concern was nuclear war.

“I’m terrified of it. I really believe he… [Putin] can press a button. When the war started, I had nightmares for the first five days. I would wake up in the middle of the night and check quickly [my] phone to see if he blew up a bomb.”

Despite the distance in Aotearoa, she was emotionally deeply affected by the conflict.

“When the war started, I couldn’t even work. I had to quit my job because it was just unbearable, like the moral guilt and shame and stuff. It was just so busy.”

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Putin’s latest speech was “shattering,” she said

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky today called on the UN General Assembly to punish Russia for the invasion and alleged war crimes.

Many delegations gave him a standing ovation, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has since posted on social media: “Aotearoa New Zealand stands firmly against the escalation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including the mobilization of Russian citizens and support for organizing mock referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine”.

According to the latest census, there were more than 7,700 Russians in Aotearoa.

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