Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization in Russia, which will require citizens to join the war effort in Ukraine. He also warned Western nations not to attack Russia’s territories, which would be met with swift retaliation.
Putin’s address on Wednesday comes as Russia’s invasion reaches nearly seven months and amid a successful counteroffensive by Ukraine’s military.
Conscription is “fully adequate to the threats we face, namely to protect our homeland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity, to ensure the security of our people and people in the liberated territories,” he said.
“We are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be subject to conscription, and above all, those who served in the armed forces have a certain military specialty and relevant experience,” Putin said.
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Putin’s partial mobilization is set to start on Wednesday.
The statement also comes one day after Russia announced it intends to hold elections in Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine. This would allow these regions to join Russia. Such elections would undoubtedly escalate the war.
Putin has threatened the West not to interfere. He also discouraged them from “nuclear blackmail” or using nukes against Russia.
“To those who allow themselves such statements regarding Russia, I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and for separate components and more modern than those of NATO countries and when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,” Putin said.
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“It’s not a bluff,” the Russian president added.
The referendums are set to start Friday in the Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions.
Should these regions successfully vote to join Russia, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council said it would enable his country to use “any means” to defend them. Such a vote to join Russia is also seen as “irreversible,” Dmitry Medvedev added.
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On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned these efforts and said such votes amount to just “noise.”
“The situation on the front line clearly indicates that the initiative belongs to Ukraine,” he said. “Our positions do not change because of the noise or any announcements somewhere. And we enjoy the full support of our partners in this.”
The referendum votes, which were also dismissed by Western leaders, are expected to go in Russia’s favor.
“I thank all friends and partners of Ukraine for today’s mass principled firm condemnation of Russia’s attempts to stage new sham referenda,” Zelenskyy said.
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US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said the “sham referenda and mobilization are signs of weakness [and] of Russian failure.”
“The United States will never recognize Russia’s claim to purportedly annexed Ukrainian territory, and we will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” she added.
UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace similarly responded to Putin’s comments in a tweet Wednesday.
“President Putin’s breaking of his own promises not to mobilize parts of his population and the illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine, are an admission that his invasion is failing,” he said. “He and his Defense Minister have sent tens of thousands of their own citizens to their deaths, ill-equipped and badly led.”
“No amount of threats and propaganda can hide the fact that Ukraine is winning this war, the international community are united and Russia is becoming a global pariah.”
The Defense Ministry also released an intelligence update concerning the ongoing war efforts between Ukraine and Russia.
“These referendums follow the Russian Duma’s formal recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics on 21 February 2022,” the ministry said. “This urgency is likely driven by fears of imminent Ukrainian attack and an expectation of greater security after formally becoming part of Russia.”
“The Russian civilian and military leadership has faced significant pressure over the last two weeks. These new measures have highly likely been brought forwards due to public criticism and mark a further development in Russia’s strategy,” it added.
Several other countries issued statements condemning Putin’s statements, including China, Germany, Netherlands, Latvia, and Lithuania.
A nuclear power plant located in Zaporizhzhia, which has become an urgent concern for the international community amid Russia’s provocations, would be firmly under Russia’s control following an election to join the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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