Vladimir Putin has announced a partial mobilisation in Russia in a significant escalation that places the country’s people and economy on a wartime footing.
The president also threatened nuclear retaliation, saying that Russia had “lots of weapons to reply” to what he called western threats on Russian territory and added that he was not bluffing. In a highly anticipated televised address, Putin said the “partial mobilisation” was a direct response to the dangers posed by the west, which “wants to destroy our country”, and claimed the west had tried to “turn Ukraine’s people into cannon fodder”.
“Military service will apply only to citizens who are in the reserve, especially those who have served in the armed forces, have certain military professions and relevant experience,” Putin said. Shortly after the president’s announcement, the country’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, said 300,000 Russians “with previous military experience” would be called up. According to the decree signed by Putin on Wednesday, the contracts of soldiers fighting in Ukraine will be extended until the end of the partial mobilisation period.
The Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Putin’s decision to announce a partial mobilisation was a “predictable step” that highlights that the war was not going according to the Kremlin’s plan.
Putin’s speech was swiftly condemned by western leaders. Germany’s vice-chancellor, Robert Habeck, said Russia’s decision to announce a partial mobilisation was “another bad and wrong step from Russia”. British defence secretary Ben Wallace said: “Putin’s breaking of his own promises not to mobilise parts of the population and the illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine are an admission that his invasion is failing”. Putin is making a “very dangerous nuclear gamble” and must “stop such reckless behaviour”, warned European Commission spokesperson Peter Stano.
Putin’s decision to announce a partial mobilisation sent shockwaves across Russia. Since the start of the invasion on 24 February, the Russian president has sought to shield his population from the grim realities of war, with the Kremlin eager to cultivate a sense of normality on the streets of Moscow and other major cities. But with the decision to announce a partial mobilisation and the call-up of 300,000 mostly young Russian men, the war will now enter the household of many families across the country.
Lithuania’s defence minister Arvydas Anušauskas has said the country is to put its rapid reaction force on high alert, as the mobilisation will also occur on its border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
Latvia’s foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs said the country will not offer refuge to any Russians fleeing Moscow’s mobilisation of troops.
Putin also said Russia would give its full support to the referendums announced for this weekend in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to join the Russian Federation. He accused the west of starting a war against Russia in Ukraine in 2014. “In its aggressive anti-Russian policy the west has crossed all lines,” the Russian president said.
The proxy Russian authorities in four occupied areas of Ukraine had announced on Tuesday their intentions to hold referendums between 23-27 September on joining the Russian Federation.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaking in a video address released early on Wednesday, said in relation to the referendums: “Our position does not change according to this noise or any other announcement”. Kyiv said the “sham” referendums were meaningless and vowed to “eliminate” threats posed by Russia, saying its forces would keep retaking territory regardless of what Moscow or its proxies announced. Zelenskiy will speak to the UN general assembly by video-link on Wednesday.
The White House rejected Russia’s plans to hold the referendums, adding that Moscow may be making the move to recruit troops in those areas after suffering extensive losses on the battlefield. Jake Sullivan, president Joe Biden’s national security adviser, called the referendums an affront to principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Several world leaders have said they will not recognise any referendums or new annexations of Ukrainian territory, with French president Emmanuel Macron calling the plan a “parody”.
Any referendums on joining Russia in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories would destroy any remaining window for talks between Kyiv and Moscow, Ukrainian publication Liga.net cited the Ukrainian president’s office spokesman as saying on Tuesday. “Without the referendums, there is still the smallest chance for a diplomatic solution. After the referendums – no,” Liga.net quoted Serhiy Nykyforov as saying.
With Germany’s gas storage facilities at just over 90% capacity, Robert Habeck, the economy minister, said Germany stands “a good chance” of getting through the winter. Germany is ahead of its goal to have the subterranean stores 95% full by the start of November.
The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Tuesday evening that its operations in Donetsk near the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka caused Russia to suffer “significant losses”. But Russian forces shelled those towns and dozens more in north-eastern and southern Ukraine, the general staff said.
Police in Germnay have raided several properties understood to belong to the Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, including his villa on Tegernsee lake in the southern state of Bavaria, on suspicion of money laundering and violations of EU sanctions.
US senators on Tuesday proposed that Biden’s administration use secondary sanctions on international banks to strengthen a price cap G7 countries plan to impose on Russian oil. Democratic senator Chris Van Hollen and Republican Pat Toomey announced a framework for legislation to impose the secondary sanctions, which would target financial institutions involved in trade finance, insurance, reinsurance and brokerage of Russia oil and petroleum products sold at prices exceeding the cap.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to his report
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