Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday a “partial mobilization” of Russians of fighting age in Ukraine, warning the West that Moscow is ready to use “all means” to defend itself.
“This is not a bluff,” Putin stressed with a serious face, accusing Western countries of wanting to “destroy” Russia and of having resorted to “nuclear blackmail” against his country, implying that their forces would be willing to use the weapon nuclear.
Facing the lightning counter-offensives of the Ukrainian forces, which pushed back the Russian army, Putin opted for an escalation in the conflict, with a measure that opens the way to send more soldiers to Ukraine.
After the organization of annexation “referendums” in four regions of eastern and southern Ukraine from Friday was announced on Tuesday, the Russian president’s announcements mark a turning point in the conflict, which began on February 24 .
“We are only talking about a partial mobilization,” insisted the Russian president in a speech on television previously recorded and broadcast on Wednesday, explaining that the order concerns citizens “who have already served (…) and who have relevant experience”
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu specified that the order concerned 300,000 reservists, that is, barely “1.1% of mobilizable resources.”
The order is effective from this Wednesday, the Russian president said. The corresponding decree was published shortly after on the Kremlin portal.
Jailed Russian opponent Alexei Navalni criticized the decision, saying it will lead to “a huge tragedy and a huge number of deaths.”
Sign of weakness?
The US ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, considered that the measure constitutes a “sign of weakness” in Moscow, and the British Secretary of Defense, Ben Wallace, affirmed that Putin’s decision shows that his offensive “is failing” and that ” The international community is united and Russia is becoming a global pariah.”
For Germany, it is a “serious and bad” measure, said Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck.
The European Union considered that the announcements about the mobilization and the referendums “are just another proof from Putin that he is not interested in peace” and a “sign of his desperation,” said Peter Stano, spokesman for the head of European diplomacy, Joseph Borrell.
The mobilization could lead to an intensification of violence.
In Kharkiv (northeast), Ukraine’s second largest city near the Russian border, Svetlana, 63, urged Russians to ignore the order and “finally wake up.”
Galina, a 50-year-old neighbor, criticized the Russians who claim to want to “liberate” her. “What do they want to free us from? From our homes? From our relatives? From our friends?” She launched.
President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russia’s first mobilization since World War II, in which 300,000 reservists with previous military experience will be called up. Via GraphicNews.
Russian forces have recorded several setbacks in the face of Ukrainian counter-offensives in the Kherson (southern Ukraine) and Kharkov regions, where the Russians had to give up a lot of ground.
On Wednesday, Shoigu declared that the Russian army had lost 5,937 soldiers since the offensive began, an official balance much higher than before but still well below Ukrainian and Western estimates of tens of thousands of casualties.
“It’s not a bluff”
On the ground, fighting and shelling continued on Wednesday, with Ukrainian authorities accusing Russia of again bombing the site of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, the largest in Europe.
Putin’s speech on Wednesday also marks an escalation in rhetoric against Western countries, which he accused of wanting to “destroy” Russia.
“Nuclear blackmail has also been carried out […] I would like to remind those who make such statements that our country also possesses various means of destruction, some of which are more modern than those of NATO countries,” the Russian president declared.
“We will use all means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” he said. “And I’m saying ‘all means’ […] This is not a bluff,” he insisted.
His defense minister stated that Russia is not fighting “so much against Ukraine as against the West”.
A day before Putin announced the new measures, authorities in occupied or separatist areas in Ukraine had announced “referendums” on annexation to Russia from September 23-27.
Voting will take place in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which make up the Donbas basin (east); and in the occupied areas of Kherson and Zaporizhia, in the south.
Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky downplayed them, calling them “pseudo-referendums.”
The dollar hits highs
On the economic front, the dollar hit a two-decade high, in a context of tension, thanks to its safe-haven status and taking advantage of speculation about a strict monetary policy, before the United States Federal Reserve (Fed) announced a decision.
The Dollar Index, which compares it with other currencies such as the yen, the euro or the pound, reached 110.87 points, a record since 2002.
And in Russia, the authorities revised their estimates on the evolution of GDP and expect it to contract by 2.9% in 2022, less than the 4% expected, said the Russian Minister of Economic Development, Maxim Reshetnikov.
The International Monetary Fund, on the other hand, expects the Russian economy to contract by 6% this year.
President Vladimir Putin orders Russia’s first mobilization since World War II, warning the West that if it continues what he calls “nuclear blackmail,” Moscow will respond with the might of its vast arsenal. Infographic Graphic News.