Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has entered a new phase as Vladimir Putin ordered a “partial mobilisation” calling up 300,000 reservists.
The Russian President signalled a significant escalation in the fighting after an apparent retreat from the north eastern Kharkiv region in the past few weeks.
In a televised address to the nation, he said: “Today our armed forces are operating across a frontline that exceeds 1,000 km, opposing not only neo-Nazi formations but the entire military machine of the collective West.
“In such a situation, I consider it necessary to make the following decision, which is fully appropriate to threats we face.
“Namely, in order to protect our motherland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to ensure the safety of our people and people in the liberated territories, I consider it necessary to support the proposal of the defence ministry and the General Staff to conduct a partial mobilisation in the Russian federation.”
He also issued a warning to the West during his speech, adding: “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we use all available means to protect our people – this is not a bluff.”
We take a look at what this will mean for Russia and Ukraine.
What does Putin mean by military mobilisation?
For the Russian people, Putin’s term “partial mobilisation” means in reality the calling up of reservists for the armed forces.
During his address, he said he had signed a decree ordering the mobilisation immediately affecting anyone who has served as a professional soldier in Russia rather than a conscript.
Putin said: “We are talking about partial mobilisation.
“That is, only citizens who are currently in the reserves and, above all, those who have served in the armed forces, have military skills and relevant experience.
“Only they will be subject to conscription.”
Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister, separately he expected 300,000 people to be called up.
Why has the Russian President made this address?
Russian forces have withdrawn from large swathes of land in the north-eastern Kharkiv region following Ukrainian counter-attacks in recent weeks.
The cities of Balakliya, Kupiansk and Izium are among those to be liberated by Ukrainian forces.
The Russian Ministry of Defence said at the time the retreat was to “achieve the declared aims of the special military op”.
But there are suggestions Russia is experiencing military personnel shortages.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence tweeted on Tuesday: “Russian forces in Ukraine continue to experience personnel shortages.
“The Russia Duma voted on 20 September 2022 to amend a law which extends punishments for defaulting troops.”
In what appears to be a bid to head off more Ukrainian counter-attacks, Putin also announced in his address referendums in the Donbas region.
He said: “Parliaments in the People’s Republics of the Donbas as well as the civil-military administrations in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions have decided to hold referendums on the future of the territories and have appealed to Russia to support such a step.
“We will do everything to ensure safe conditions to hold the referendums, so that people can express their will.
“We will support the decision on their future, which will be made by the majority of residents in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.”
How will it affect the Russia-Ukraine war?
Putin has made clear his determination to stand up to what he sees as Western aggression.
He: “The territorial integrity of our motherland, our independence and freedom will be secured, I repeat, with all the means we have.
“Those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the prevailing winds can turn in their direction.”
But his address has been met condemnation by Western leaders.
Melinda Simmons, Britain’s ambassador to Ukraine, wrote on Twitter: “Watched Putin’s speech.
“He still refuses to understand Ukraine.
“Partial mobilisation and sham referenda don’t change that essential weakness.”
While Ben Wallace, the UK Defence Secretary described Putin’s mobilisation announcement as “an admission that his invasion is failing.”
He said: “He and his defence 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.”
And Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters Russia’s mobilisation was a predictable step which would prove extremely unpopular and underscored the war was not going according to Moscow’s plan.
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