“Suppose they started a draft, and nobody came?” – Paraphrasing a well-known 60’s anti-war slogan from Charlotte Keys.

Dmitry Peskov is Vladimir Putin’s Presidental Press Secretary. As such, he’s the Kremlin’s top spin doctor, responsible for convincing hundreds of thousands of young Russians that joining the Russian military against their will and going to war in Ukraine is a good thing. That’s a tough sell, and many aren’t buying it.

Dmitry Peskov's Official portrait
Dmitry Peskov’s official portrait. Image courtesy of Twitter and Kremlin.ru

His job just got a lot harder. The Russian language YouTube channel, Популярная политика (Popular Politics), posted a video of a supposed conversation with Peskov’s 32-year-old son Nikolay where he doesn’t exactly sound keen to report for military service. It’s a prank call, but still telling. SOFREP’s good friend Dmitri from War Translated translated the conversation into English and posted it on Twitter.

The younger Peskov was reminded that Russian officials had sent him a conscription letter, and he was supposed to respond to that letter by calling them, which he had not done. He was also reminded that he was supposed to show up in person at a recruiting station the following day by 10:00 and asked if he was going to be there. Nicolay responded, “Ummm…you…obviously, I won’t come tomorrow at 10:00 AM.” He tells the caller, “I’m Mr. Peskov, and it’s not exactly right for me to be there.” Mr. Peskov then raised the eyebrow of the Popular Politics host when he said, “Anyway, I’ll be solving this on another level.” 

Nikolay Peskov and an expensive horse
Nicolay Peskov, equestrian enthusiast. He sometimes uses his stepfather’s surname, “Choles.” Screenshot from Twitter and @llvesToomas

As you might expect, it’s interesting to read the comments on this particular Twitter post. Most run toward the thinking of this one from @MaierSeagle, who writes, “Solving on another level means his big daddy will make it go away.” 

Nickolay is a  product of Mr. Peskov’s first marriage, and his mother raised him in England in privileged circumstances. According to The Guardian, he was arrested in 2010 for the robbery of a cell phone and punching his victim in the face during the course of the crime. He was charged with two other young men; at his sentencing, the judge said he had conducted an act of “mindless violence in a public place at night, in the alleyways of Milton Keynes; a gang attack, three of you set about intimidating this young man and caused him a dreadful injury.”

Peskov, born in 1990, would have been about 20 at the time of the crime. He was no stranger to the English criminal justice system, having already once been punished for stealing a cell phone. Because of that offense, he was ordered to take anger management classes and to attend a program to deal with alcohol problems. According to the apparently defunct Russian website rospres.ru, in 2016, he was investigated for the beating of his 71-year-old grandmother Inese Budyonna.

Enough about that guy. What about the 299,999 other young Russian men of military age subject to conscription? The Atlantic informs us that shortly after President Putin’s address, international flights out of Moscow sold out in record time. They tell the story of how a senior IT manager and 15 colleagues left their lucrative jobs and relatively comfortable Moscow lifestyles to beat their feet out of town and catch the first flight to the capital of Armenia.

Many who have not left the country have stayed to protest the call-up. According to NPR, protests popped up in short order in dozens of Russian cities beginning last Saturday. The human rights monitoring group OVD News reports at least seven hundred people had been arrested by the end of the evening, most of them in Moscow and St. Petersburg. NPR interviewed retired university professor Natalya Zurina about the situation. She told them, “I haven’t heard the word ‘war’ out of Putin’s mouth. And if there’s no war, then how can we have a mobilization?” Regarding her desire to take to the streets in protest, Zurina explained, “He’s calling up our young boys to die for nothing. I just couldn’t stay home.”

Most protestors turned out to be young women, not subject to the draft. “Why is that?” you might be thinking. When military-age men showed up to protest, many were served draft papers after being taken into police custody. NPR picked one twentysomething man out of the crowd of protesters and began to ask him why he was there. The man, who refused to give his name for fear of repercussions, told them, “Putin said he wouldn’t change the constitution. He changed the constitution. Putin said he there wouldn’t be mobilization, and yet here we are.”

After seeing that he was talking with reporters, OMON troops, part of the National Guard of Russia, quickly approached the man, asked him for his papers, and whisked him away into a van. Unfortunately, it seems he had no connections with Mr. Peskov.