Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of his own military on Wednesday, calling up reservists in a major escalation of the war in Ukraine after a setback on the battlefield put the Kremlin under increasing pressure to act.
In a rare national address, he also backed Russia’s plan to annex occupied southern and eastern Ukraine, appearing to threaten nuclear retaliation if Kyiv continues efforts to reclaim the land.
Just a day after four Russian-controlled regions announced they would vote this week on breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia, Kyiv and its Western allies were dismissed as a desperate “hoax” in a plan to stop Ukraine A successful counterattack. force.
Putin has vowed that Russia will do everything in its power to protect what it considers territory, accusing the West of nuclear blackmail, warning: “This is not bluff.”
Speaking after him, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 300,000 reservists would be called up initially.
Only those with relevant combat and service experience would be moved, he said. Another section of the decree, effective immediately, prohibits most career soldiers from terminating their contracts and leaving until the partial mobilization ceases to exist.
Washington said Putin’s escalation was an expected step that showed his military campaign was failing.
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brinker, responded by saying: “Fake referendums and mobilizations are signs of weakness, or of Russia’s failure.”
“The United States will never recognize Russia’s claim to annexing Ukrainian territory, and we will continue to stand with Ukraine as long as it needs to,” she said.
John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator, said much of the speech was “typical” and that the U.S. had expected to mobilize more troops.
The move “shows that he’s struggling, we know … obviously, manpower is an issue for him and he feels like he’s at a disadvantage,” Kirby told ABC’s Good Morning America.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace described Putin’s mobilization statement as “an admission that his invasion had failed”.
“He and his secretary of defense have sent to death tens of thousands of their own citizens, poorly equipped and poorly led,” Wallace said in a statement. “No amount of threats and propaganda can hide that Ukraine is The fact that this war is won, the international community is united, and Russia is becoming a global pariah.”
Since his full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 2, Putin has resisted calls for general mobilization from nationalist supporters and pro-military bloggers. twenty four.
He didn’t take that step on Wednesday — a move that could significantly strengthen his ailing strength, but it could take time and could prove unpopular with the public the Kremlin is trying to shield from the war.
Whether a partial mobilization will free him from the same concerns remains to be seen.
The sudden flurry of activity suggests that the Kremlin intends not only to dig deeper, but also to step up its efforts in a conflict that has lasted nearly seven months and recently deviated from its forces. Its public supporters rejoice at the prospect of a “total war” and a new confrontation with the West.
Separatist officials in the Russian-backed eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, as well as the southern Kherson region and the partially occupied Zaporozhye region announced on Tuesday that they would formally join Russia within four days starting Friday. vote. It is unclear whether the proposed annexation covers the entire territory of the provinces or just the areas currently occupied by Russian troops.