March 24, 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday the mobilization of some 300,000 troops in response to a sharp escalation in the conflict, after Ukraine’s counteroffensive forced Kremlin invaders into a series of humiliating retreats.

In a televised address, the authoritarian leader unveiled his plans for a troop surge, while issuing a clear warning to the West about what he called “nuclear blackmail.”

“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all means at our disposal to protect our people. This is not bluff,” he said, adding that he “has a lot of weapons to respond”.

The mobilization — the first ordered by Russia since World War II — did not call into action all of Russia’s 2 million reservists, nor did it launch a full-scale national conscription. But the increase in manpower is a significant moment in Ukraine’s ongoing conflict since Russian tanks first rumbled across the border in February.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the conscription would include 300,000 people with some military experience, which was widely reported as a “partial mobilization.”But experts already pointed out The text ordering the mobilization doesn’t say it’s partial, nor any laws limiting the Kremlin’s ability to eventually call in those with no military experience. Fears of full conscription may be part of a Google search for “how to leave Russia” on Tuesday, Medusa Report.

Putin claimed that the mobilization was necessary as the West pushed Kyiv to “transfer military operations to our territory” with the ultimate goal of “completely plundering our country”.

“Nuclear extortion was also used,” Putin added, referring to the Russian-occupied Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in Ukraine, where a nearby explosion has raised concerns among international observers of a possible nuclear incident.

He also condemned NATO leaders for talking about “the possibility and acceptability of the use of weapons of mass destruction – nuclear weapons against Russia”. Putin added: “For those who allow themselves to speak about Russia, I would like to remind you that our country also has various means of sabotage and is in some ways more modern than that of NATO countries.”

He said his intention remained to “liberate” the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. Putin added: “Russia cannot give up its people living nearby being torn to shreds by executioners and unable to respond to their desire to decide their own destiny.”

Western leaders and military officials mocked Putin’s remarks on Wednesday, calling the mobilization a desperate move that showed the Russian invasion had no plan. British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement that Putin had “sent tens of thousands of his own citizens to their deaths, poorly equipped and poorly led”.

“No amount of threats and propaganda can hide the fact that Ukraine is winning the war, the international community is united, and Russia is becoming a global pariah,” he added.

Putin’s speech came after Russia’s State Duma passed legislation on Tuesday imposing harsh penalties on soldiers who “voluntarily” surrender or refuse to obey orders during combat. It also added the concepts of “mobilization, martial law and wartime” to Russian criminal law for the first time.

Fearing mobilization is imminent, four acting Kremlin leaders in occupied Ukraine announced they would hold a “referendum” this week on formally joining Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed in a broadcast Tuesday night to continue resisting attempts to divide his country. “We have the full support of our partners in this regard,” he said. “So let’s keep the pressure. Let’s stay united. Let’s defend Ukraine. We’re liberating our land. And we’re showing no signs of weakness.”

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