President Vladimir Putin declared a “partial mobilization”, calling up 300,000 reservists, in a major escalation of his decadent invasion of Ukraine, which he described as a fight to the death with the United States and its allies.
As Russia moves to annex occupied Ukrainian territory, Putin also renewed his warnings about a nuclear threat. “When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, without a doubt we will use all means at our disposal to protect Russia and to our people,” he said in a televised national address on Wednesday. “This is not a bluff.”
“Those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons they should know that wind patterns can also turn in their direction,” the president said, accusing the United States and its allies of seeking to “destroy” Russia.
Putin’s land grab and military escalation comes after a ukrainian counteroffensive in the last few weeks, he dealt his troops their worst defeats since the first months of the conflictrecovering more than 10 percent of the territory that Russia controlled. The Kremlin had long resisted announcing any steps toward mobilization, seeking to limit the impact of its seven-month invasion on the Russian population, but the latest battlefield losses have underscored its manpower shortage.
World War II precedent
It is not clear whether the mobilization, the country’s first since the Nazi invasion in World War II, according to historians, will be enough to stop Ukraine’s advances on the battlefield. kyiv now has more troops armed with advanced weapons provided by the United States and its allies. Inside Russia, the measure set off the alarm as citizens who had been largely insulated from the realities of war scrambled to find out if they or their loved ones could be sent to the front lines.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told state television that reservists would not be called up all at once under Putin’s partial mobilization. The order applies only to those with military experience and would not affect students or others who have not previously served in the military, he said.
“This is another bad and wrong step,” German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, who is also economy minister, told reporters in Berlin. “For me and for the federal government, in any case, it is clear that we will continue to fully support Ukraine in this difficult time.”
The additional troops would be more than the roughly 180,000 the United States estimated Russia had massed on Ukraine’s borders before the Feb. 24 invasion. Ukraine, which declared a mobilization at the beginning of the war, now has about 700 thousand in the field with months of training and has said he aims to create a million-strong army.
Putin made his threats a day after Russian-installed occupation authorities in Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions that Kremlin forces still control hastily announced plans for “referendums” starting Friday on annexation. This would incorporate roughly a fifth of the Ukrainian territory that Russia controls behind its borders.
Ukraine and its allies denounced the planned votes as shams and vowed to continue fighting to reclaim the land, which covers parts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions.
Once the annexation takes place, Russia will also be able to bolster its forces fighting in Ukraine with recruits who are doing their military service, who currently cannot be sent to the front line because it is outside Russian borders, said Igor Korotchenko, chief of the Moscow-based Center for the Analysis of the World Arms Trade.
Still, increasing the size of the Russian armed forces involved in the campaign is not enough on its own to reverse the momentum, Korotchenko said. “The problem is not the number (of soldiers) but the ability to supply them with weapons and equipment.”