Putin orders partial mobilization of Russian reservists and hints using nuclear weapons still possible

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the partial mobilization of reservists in Russia, a move that appears to be an acknowledgment Moscow’s war on Ukraine After nearly seven months of fighting and the recent loss of Kremlin forces on the battlefield, the plan did not go as planned.

In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday morning, the Russian leader also warned the West that he was not bluffing to use all available means to protect Russian territory, in what appeared to be a veiled reference to Russia’s nuclear weapons. ability. Putin has previously warned the West against supporting Russia and accused NATO countries of providing arms to help Ukraine.

Officials said the total number of reservists called up was 300,000.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said only those with relevant combat and service experience would be transferred. He added that about 25 million people meet the criteria, but only about 1% will mobilize.

The background to Putin’s announcement is New York United Nations General AssemblyMoscow’s invasion of Ukraine last February has been the target of widespread international criticism.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address the rally in a pre-recorded speech on Wednesday. Putin did not travel to New York.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in Moscow
In this still image from a video released on September 21, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks announcing the partial mobilization of Russian reservists during the Russian-Ukrainian military conflict.

Russian Presidential News Service via Reuters

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace described Putin’s mobilization statement as “an admission that his invasion had failed”.

“He and his defense secretary have sent to death tens of thousands of their own citizens, poorly equipped and poorly led,” Wallace said in a statement. “No amount of threats and propaganda can hide that Ukraine is The fact that this war is won, the international community is united, and Russia is becoming a global pariah.”

Part of the mobilization order came a day after the Russian-controlled eastern and southern regions of Ukraine announced plans to vote on becoming an integral part of Russia — a move that could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war after its success in Ukraine.

Referendums, which have been held since the start of the war, are expected to begin on Friday in Luhansk, Kherson and parts of the Russian-held Zaporozhye and Donetsk regions.

The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine called the partial mobilization a sign of “weakness.”

Bridget Brink tweeted: “Fake referendums and mobilizations are signs of weakness for Russia’s failure. The US will never acknowledge Russia’s claim to annexing Ukrainian territory, and we will continue to work with Ukraine as long as needed. stand together.”

The war, which has killed thousands, has pushed up global food prices and sent energy costs soaring. It also raised fears of a potential nuclear disaster at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine’s now-Russian-occupied southeast.

In his speech, Putin accused the West of being involved in “nuclear blackmail” and pointed to “statements by some high-ranking representatives of major NATO countries regarding the possible use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction against Russia.”

He did not identify who made the comments.

“To those who allow themselves to speak out about Russia, I would like to remind you that our country also has various means of sabotage, and is independent and more modern than that of NATO countries, protecting Russia and Russia when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened. Our people, we will definitely use all means at our disposal,” Putin said.

He added: “This is not bluff.”

Putin said he had signed a partial mobilization decree set to begin on Wednesday. Full-scale mobilization is likely to be unpopular in Russia and could further weaken Putin’s position after the recent military setback in Ukraine.

“We are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be conscripted, and most importantly, those who serve in the armed forces have a certain military expertise and relevant experience,” Putin said.

Regarding the referendum plan, Putin noted that Russian-backed authorities in occupied Ukraine have asked the Kremlin to support their efforts to become part of Russia.

“We will make every effort to provide safe conditions during the referendum so that people can express their will,” Putin stressed.

Foreign leaders have described the ballots as illegal and non-binding. Zelensky said they were a “hoax” and “noise” to distract the public.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also said that 5,937 Russian soldiers were killed in the conflict in Ukraine, far below Western estimates of Russia’s loss of tens of thousands.

In his evening speech, Zelensky said Ukraine’s commitment to recapture areas occupied by Russian forces had not changed.

“The situation on the front clearly shows that the initiative belongs to Ukraine,” he said. “Our position will not change because of noise somewhere or any announcement. We have the full support of our partners in this regard.”

Even a partial mobilization could increase Russian disillusionment with the war. The Wisner opposition movement on Wednesday called for nationwide protests, saying “thousands of Russian men – our fathers, brothers and husbands – will be thrown into the meat grinder of war. They will Die for what? What happens to mother and child? Cry for it?”

Under Russia’s sweeping crackdown on the opposition and draconian laws against discrediting soldiers and military operations, it’s unclear how many would dare to protest.

The upcoming referendum will almost certainly go the way of Moscow.

In another sign that Russia is grappling with a protracted and potentially intensifying conflict, the Kremlin-controlled lower house voted on Tuesday to strengthen laws prohibiting desertion, surrender and looting by Russian troops. Lawmakers also voted for a possible 10-year prison sentence for soldiers who refuse to fight.

If approved by the upper house as expected and then signed by Putin, the bill would strengthen commanders and prevent demoralization of soldiers.

Shelling continues around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in the Russian-occupied city of Enehodar. Ukrainian energy operator Energoatom said Russian shelling once again damaged infrastructure at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant and briefly forced workers to start two diesel generators to provide emergency power to the cooling pumps of one of the reactors.

Even if all six of the plant’s reactors are shut down, such pumps are critical to avoiding a nuclear meltdown. Energoatom said the generators were later shut down as mains power was restored.

The Zaporozhye nuclear power plant has been in the spotlight for months over fears of radiation leaks from the shelling. Russia and Ukraine blame each other for shelling.

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