From blitzkrieg to decreeing the partial mobilization of the population: after seven months of offensive in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated the conflict with kyiv and Western powers on Wednesday to the announcing the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of reservists and threatening to resort to nuclear weapons.
In a television message to the nation, in which he accused the West of seeking the destruction of Russia, Putin announced the entry into force of a measure that seeks to summon reservists to defend sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the country.
(Also read: Zelenski sends a strong message after Putin’s threat: he asks the world for punishment)
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said Wednesday that 300,000 reservists will be mobilized, which represents 1 percent of this country’s potential. The measure triggered the sale of air tickets for those seeking to leave the country as soon as possible.
But the president went much further in his speech. The Russian president warned NATO countries that his country has a nuclear arsenal without comparison that would allow him to counter any Western threat. “Those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can turn against them,” he said.
Putin assured that Moscow will not hesitate to resort to all means at its disposal to defend its country and its people.
A no less threat if one takes into account that Russia currently has 1,625 deployed nuclear warheads, to which must be added another 2,870 stored and 1,760 of a strategic nature, according to the Stockholm International Institute for Peace Research (Sipri).
(Also: President Putin threatens to use nuclear weapons: ‘not bragging’)
Putin’s address to the nation immediately triggered a wave of rejection within Russian territory itself. Peace movements called for massive protests on Wednesday against the measures and, to applause, shouted “no to war” and “Putin to the trench.”
More than 1,113 people were arrested in 38 Russian cities amid the mobilizations, according to the OVD-Info organization.
The ads also represented a dramatic escalation of tension in the midst of the war. In Ukraine, for example, President Volodimir Zelensky argued that the announced partial mobilization demonstrates the “inability” of the Russian professional army and assured that Putin “wants to drown Ukraine in blood.” The president even called for a “Russian punishment” for Moscow in a United Nations speech.
(Keep reading: Russian Defense Minister announces that 300,000 reservists will be mobilized)
A nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought.
After Putin’s speech, US President Joe Biden used the UN stage to directly attack his Russian counterpart. Before the General Assembly, Biden said on Wednesday that Russia wants to erase Ukraine from the map and that the country “blatantly violated” the Charter of the United Nations.
Biden also criticized Putin for resorting to threats with nuclear weapons: “Just today (Wednesday), President Putin has made open nuclear threats against Europe and has reflected a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of a non-proliferation regime. (…) A nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought”.
Biden also addressed another of the current conflicts and de-escalated tensions with Beijing by emphasizing that he is not seeking a “Cold War” with China and that his country will not support any unilateral change to the status quo with Taiwan.
The statements come after the US president said he would defend the Taiwanese government in case China decided to invade the island, something that was quickly qualified by the White House.
The high representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, for his part, warned that world peace is “in danger” due to the “serious escalation” that Moscow’s decisions entail and affirmed that “Threatening with nuclear weapons is unacceptable and a danger to all.”
Less forceful was China, a country that advocated “dialogue” and support for “any effort” that leads to a ceasefire in Ukraine.
The impact of Russian measures
In any case, for the United States and the NATO countries, Russia’s decision to mobilize reservists it is a sign of the difficulties that Moscow is encountering in its war.
The measures are, according to the EU itself, a “desperate” reaction and, clearly, an acknowledgment of the failure of the “special military operation” in Ukraine, which in almost seven months of fighting has failed to conquer Donbas.
Since Russia launched its assault on Ukraine on February 24, the Kremlin has repeatedly said that everything is going “according to plan”, even as it had to abandon its offensive in kyiv and withdraw to the east.
Regarding the use of nuclear weapons, analysts consider that for Putin, nuclear escalation would not be a way to ensure a last-minute victory, but rather a form of political or even physical survival. For what could dust off a Russian doctrine that experts call “escalation to de-escalation”: resort to nuclear weapons so as not to lose the conventional war.
Yet such an act of desperation would mark the darkest turn in human history since Hiroshima and Nagasaki and break the Cold War-era taboo against the use of nuclear weapons for anything other than deterrence.
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This is how the board of the war on Ukrainian soil looks today
Parallel to the announcements by Russian President Vladimir Putin to mobilize reservists, the truth is that the situation on the battlefield continues to worsen.
In terms of combat and military casualties, Moscow acknowledged on Wednesday that 5,937 soldiers have been killed since the start of its offensive in Ukraine in late February. a figure much lower than Ukrainian and Western estimates.
“Our losses to date are 5,937 dead,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in an interview with the Russia 24 television channel, following a speech by Putin.
In contrast, Western and Ukrainian intelligence put the death toll at 55,100 soldiers.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive in recent weeks has been key to reconfiguring the chessboard for the invasion. kyiv, in fact, assures that it has recovered 6,000 square kilometers of its territory, mainly in the northeast of the country.
Ukraine’s military even announced Wednesday that it took possession of dozens of tanks left behind in the east by fleeing Russian troops, according to people familiar with the matter, adding crucial weaponry to its arsenal nearly seven months after the start of the war. a war in which both sides have lost manpower and machinery.
It is estimated that the number of captured tanks is around 200, without specifying how many of them were operational or could be repaired.
(You can read: Referendums of annexation to Russia of some Ukrainian areas: What is happening?)
On the other hand, in the words of the United Nations nuclear agency, the situation at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine “continues to deteriorate.” The warnings come from the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, while the Ukrainians accused Russia of having returned to bombing.
The IAEA director said he discussed the matter with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whom he met earlier on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly at its headquarters in New York. “As long as the bombing continues, the risks are enormous,” he added.
The Ukrainian authorities accused Russia on Wednesday of having returned to bomb the facilities of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, although they assured that the radiation index in this facility did not exceed the norm.
*With information from agencies
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