Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial military mobilization in a televised address to his country on Wednesday as Ukraine’s counteroffensive continued to push its invading troops back towards the Russian border.
Putin’s plan, which begins by calling up reservists who previously served in the military, was unveiled hours after Russian-held regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold votes to become permanent parts of Russia.
Putin had previously avoided recalls in his effort to downplay the effects of the war – a term he rejects in favor of a “special military operation” – on the Russian population. But the conflict he had hoped would end within weeks has dragged on for seven months with few signs of an end soon.
He blamed the escalation on the West, telling his people that the United States and its allies were trying to divide Russia “into an array of regions and fatal war zones”.
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What is partial mobilization?
Putin said the partial mobilization means only Russians who are currently in the reserve will be subject to conscription. Initially, those to be reintegrated into the military will include specialists and others with “relevant experience”, Putin said.
He said that would be enough to overcome “the threats we face, namely to protect our homeland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity, to ensure the security of our people and the peoples in the liberated territories”.
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Did Putin threaten nuclear war?
Putin has accused the West of nuclear blackmail, blaming Ukraine and its allies for bombings near the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant. Ukraine blamed Russia for the bombings, which international regulators said could trigger a nuclear disaster. Putin also accused major NATO countries of suggesting that weapons of mass destruction could be used against Russia.
“Those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should be aware that the prevailing winds may also turn on their side,” Putin said.
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When will the referendum vote take place?
The referendum vote will begin Friday in the regions of Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk, partly controlled by Russia. The referendums were discussed for weeks, but the vote was not expected until November. Ukraine’s military gains likely forced the Kremlin to speed up the vote as an excuse to step up its military effort in those areas.
Former President Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by Putin, said successful referendums would result in “irreversible” redrawn borders. Moscow, he warned, could use “any means” to defend them.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the vote “noise” and thanked Ukraine’s allies for condemning the votes. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, said Russia would manipulate “fictitious” results to annex the land.
“Let’s be clear, if this happens, the United States will never recognize Russia’s claims to allegedly annexed parts of Ukraine,” Sullivan said.
Russia cracks down on deserters
Russia’s lower house of parliament voted this week to toughen laws against desertion, surrender and looting by Russian troops. Lawmakers also voted to introduce possible 10-year prison terms for soldiers refusing to fight. The laws should win the approval of the upper house and Putin.