President Vladimir V. Putin acknowledged “mistakes” on Thursday in how the Russian government has been carrying out his draft, a sign of the Kremlin’s scramble to keep public discontent in check over Mr. Putin’s effort to escalate the war in Ukraine.
In televised remarks to top security officials, Mr. Putin said that the draft had raised “many questions,” and that “all mistakes must be corrected and prevented from happening in the future.” He described cases of people entitled to deferments being wrongly drafted, such as fathers of three or more children, men with chronic diseases or those above military age.
“If a mistake is made, I repeat, it must be corrected,” he said in a videoconference with his Security Council. “Those who were called up without proper reason should be returned home.”
Mr. Putin’s remarks, which were shown on state television Thursday evening, came after anger with the draft spilled over into street protests across Russia, including in an impoverished region of Siberia on Thursday.
They also came on the same day that the Kremlin announced it would hold a ceremony on Friday to begin absorbing four Ukrainian territories, in a broadly discredited annexation effort that Antony J. Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, condemned as a further attempt at a land grab in Ukraine.
Mr. Putin’s remarks were notable for a leader who rarely admits mistakes, even as he shifted the blame for the failings of his policy to lower-level officials.
While Mr. Putin indicated when he announced the draft last week that only men with combat experience and needed skills would be called up, the draft turned out to be much larger, with residents of small towns and villages reporting that draft offices were scooping up large portions of their able-bodied men.
“You need to figure all this out,” Mr. Putin said. “Without fuss, calmly, but quickly, in detail and thoroughly.”