The Russian leadership is concerned that fears of a wider war will clash with the attempt to portray the fighting in Ukraine as a limited special military operation rather than a war. Despite information blocking efforts by Russia and the threat of penalties against purveyors of fake news, it appears that the nature of the fighting is seeping through and have touched off demonstrations by mothers against the use of their children as canon fodder. Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to bolster the official narrative at a meeting with women flight crews of Russian airlines, broadcast on the Russia 24 channel. At the meeting Putin used the question and answer session to allay the fears of the Russian public.
Putin with female air crew members (Source Nsn.fm)
He was asked by an Aeroflot Airbus 320 co-pilot "My question concerns the current situation. The fact is that there are a lot of rumors regarding the declaration of martial law, about the call up of volunteers, the call up of reservists, and that additionally conscripts will be sent to Ukraine.
"Could you say precisely whether martial law will be declared and whether conscripts will be called up [to serve] on the territory of Ukraine?"
Putin: "Now in direct [answer] to your question about volunteers, conscripts, martial law and so on. Martial law is introduced in the country in accordance with the law by presidential decree, and it must be confirmed by a Federation Council decision in the event of external aggression, including in specific areas of hostilities. But we do not have such a situation, and, I hope, will not. This is the first matter.
"The second point concerns a special situation. There are several options: martial law, special situation. It is also introduced by decree and by decision of the Federation Council in the event of some large-scale internal threats.
"There is another mode – a state of emergency. It is, as a rule, introduced regionally, and can be introduced throughout the country in the event of man-made disasters, natural disasters, and so on. Thank God it's not like that either.
"We do not plan to introduce any state of emergency on the territory of the Russian Federation. We do not plan, there is no such need today.
"Yes, we see that, as I said, attempts are being made in our country to rattle society. By the way, this also provides confirmation of my words that we are dealing not just with radicals, but with neo-Nazis. We have people walking around and expressing their opinion about what they like or dislike about our actions in Ukraine. And there, in Ukraine itself, those who express the same positions as our representatives, so to speak, the liberal part of our society, we already have confirmation, there they are simply grabbed on the street now and shot. Now our special services are collecting this information, then they will give it. They just shoot. We have part of our liberal intelligentsia walking around and protesting, but there the same, exactly the same, who say at least something about Russia, they began to shoot straight away, without trial or investigation.
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"Now about martial law. I repeat once again: it is introduced in case of external aggression, military threat. I hope this will not happen, despite the irresponsible statements of some officials...
"Only professional soldiers, officers and contract soldiers take part in this operation. There are no conscripts, and we do not plan to do this and are not going to. I repeat once again, only men who voluntarily made a very responsible choice in life for themselves take part in this operation - to defend the Motherland. They carry out this task with honor. Why this is so, why we have the right to say this, I have just formulated in answer to the first question.
"The same applies to those who are called up for training camps: no, we do not plan to do this [send to active duty in Ukraine] with respect to this category as well. They are regularly called up for training camps, before and after their call up. But we are not going to call on this category either, and they will not participate in this conflict, in this operation. We have enough strength and means to solve these tasks that we set for ourselves with the help of a professional army...
"As for the volunteers and those young people who come to the military registration and enlistment offices, we are grateful to them for this patriotic impulse and desire to support the country, support the Armed Forces. Perhaps the very fact that they are coming already matters. But their help is not yet required, and I am sure it will not be required."
Earlier, Putin had signed a decree on conscripting Russian citizens in the reserve for military training in 2022. Critics of the war have warned that the prosecution of the war in Ukraine will require more extensive military mobilization, and Putin apparently wanted to squelch such rumors.
Another reason for Putin's announcement was to fight what the Russians claim are Ukrainian disinformation tactics. "Ukrainian social networks are full of videos where Ukrainian actors play the role of captured Russian soldiers. The footage shows young Ukrainian nationalists who are having difficulty playing conscript soldiers."
Ministry of Defense spokesperson, Igor Konashenkov, said: "Only officers and military personnel serving under the contract in the positions of privates and sergeants take part in the special military operation from the Russian armed forces." Konashenkov added that the forces participating in the Ukraine fighting were experienced soldiers with combat experience in Syria under their belts.
Russian Defense Ministry Spokesperson Igor Konashenkov (Source: Rbc.ru)
Two points come to mind with the regards to the statements by Putin and Konashenkov. First, given pressures and unredeemed promises to get draftees to sign up as professional contract soldiers, the line between draftees and contract soldiers can be an exceedingly thin one. Konashenkov's description of the forces fighting in Ukraine as veterans of Syria also appears curious given the predominantly air-support role of Russia's Syrian intervention. In Syria, Assad's army and the Iran sponsored Shi'ite militias performed the heavy-lifting on the ground. The Russians also have maintained a relatively small footprint in Syria. Given the massive amount of Russian ground and armor forces in Ukraine, it is unlikely that all or most of them saw combat experience in Syria.
In addition to exempting recruits and reservists from the Ukraine fighting Putin instructed that an additional payment of 7 million rubles would be awarded the families of Russian soldiers who died in Ukraine; 3 million rubles would be received by those wounded during the "special operation". This was another attempt to show that the government cares for its troops and does not view them as canon fodder.
 Telegraph.co.uk, March 7, 2022.
 Ndelo.ru, March 6, 2022.
 Lenta.ru, March 5, 2022.
 Kp.ru, March 5, 2022.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9804 Russian Interview With Parents Of Two MIA Soldiers Sheds Light On Russian Army's Treatment Of Recruits, March 3, 2022.
 Vz.ru, March 5, 2022.