March 24, 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered another stark warning to the West following a series of embarrassing setbacks for his country’s military in Ukraine, speaking from a plank operating room on Wednesday.

Putin announces partial mobilization of reservists That could increase the number of troops available by as much as 300,000 and implicitly threaten Moscow’s willingness to use nuclear weapons.

The following are the main content of the speech and the reaction in the West.

Why is Putin making threats now?

Putin’s military call-up and possible nuclear threat comes just days after Ukrainian forces launched a sudden counteroffensive to retake territory around Kharkiv, the second largest city in the east.

“I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction… When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, in order to protect Russia and our people, we will definitely use all available means,” Putin said in a televised speech, Staring at the camera lingeringly adds: “This is not bluff.”

But his seven-minute speech also aired as Russia prepared to hold a referendum in parts of Ukraine it now occupies, including areas taken over by Moscow-backed separatist forces after fighting broke out in 2014. The vote, which began on Friday, has been dismissed as illegal by Ukraine and its Western allies.

West vows to stay the course

President Biden takes the lead in Western condemnation of Putin’s remarks At the UN General Assembly, he argued that Moscow’s aggression deserved the determination of the West to continue to support Ukraine.

“We will stand united against Russian aggression. Period,” he said, denouncing Moscow’s planned “sham” referendum in Ukraine and Putin’s “open nuclear threat to Europe.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg echoed Biden’s theme. “This is a further escalation of Putin’s war. The international community must condemn this blatant violation of international law and strengthen support for Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said in a tweet.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell added: “The threat of nuclear weapons is unacceptable and a real danger to all … world peace is at stake.”

Ukraine’s goals haven’t changed

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine remained committed to retaking all of its sovereign territory, calling Putin’s remarks a sign of Russia’s defeat on the battlefield.

“We will follow our plan, step by step. I am sure that we will liberate our territory,” Zelensky said in a televised interview with German newspaper Bild.

Zelensky’s spokesman called the Russian mobilization a “great tragedy” for the Russian people. In a statement to The Associated Press, Sergei Nikiforov said conscripts sent to the Ukrainian front would face a similar fate to the ill-prepared Russian army, who fought against each other in the first days of the war. The Kyiv attack was repelled.

“This is an acknowledgement of the incompetence of the Russian professional army, which has failed in all missions,” Nikiforov said.

How will the Russians respond?

Although the Kremlin tightly controls Russia’s news media, Russia has aired some criticism of the war in Ukraine since the latest troop withdrawal.

Small anti-war protests were held in more than 30 Russian cities on Wednesday, according to monitoring group OVD-Info, which said more than 530 protesters were arrested, including 200 in St. Petersburg and 150 in Moscow.

Russian political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin believes Putin’s mobilization will make the defeat of the Russian military in the war more personal to many Russians.

“Until recently (the Russians participated), they were happily sitting on the sofa, (watching) TV. Now the war has entered their homes,” he told The Associated Press. “People will escape this mobilization in every possible way, by bribing them out of this mobilization, leaving the country.”

Russian media reported on Wednesday that people were snapping up plane tickets to leave the country, resulting in soaring ticket prices.


Follow AP coverage of the war at

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