The Kremlin on Tuesday rejected a discussion of a nationwide military draft in Russia, a politically risky proposal that has come to prominence in public debate following the rapid reversals of Russian forces in northeastern Ukraine.
Speaking to journalists, Dmitri S. Peskov, President Vladimir V. Putin’s spokesman, said the potential for a mobilization “is not currently being discussed.”
The statement reflected the Russian government’s difficulty in maintaining control of the debate, as recent defeats have fueled more criticism, including from mostly supportive conservative and nationalist voices.
Russian political figures and commentators have called on Mr Putin to toughen up in Ukraine by bolstering the Russian military with recruits and targeting Ukraine’s key civilian infrastructure.
“Russia has the right to plunge Ukraine into the Stone Age” wrote Oleg Tsaryov, a pro-Russian former deputy of the Ukrainian parliament who fled the country in 2014.
Others accused the Russian military leadership of poor strategy and coordination for the defeats, leaving Russia hundreds of square miles of occupied territory within days. Some suggested that it was now best to denounce peace.
While the Kremlin has taken steps to bring in more recruits, analysts say Mr Putin has done his best to avoid the kind of mass mobilization that has contributed to a backlash against past conflicts, such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
After the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian government passed a law that effectively bans any public discussion of the war that deviates from the official interpretation of events. So far, the accused or punished have mostly been pro-Western liberals.
Tuesday, Mr. Peskov with a warning on the latest round of criticism.
“The people are consolidated around the decisions taken by the head of state,” he said. “As far as other views, critical views, as long as they stay within the law, this is pluralism. But the line is very, very thin – you have to be very careful there.”