Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the immediate “partial mobilization” of Russian citizens to escalate Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, promising to use “all means” to defend the country and its people.
“Our country also has various means of destruction, in some ways more modern than those of the NATO countries, and if the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” Putin said in a statement on Wednesday. In his speech, it suggested that a new chapter could be opened in the months-long conflict.
Russia’s stance has taken a major shift after Ukraine’s unexpectedly successful attack on much of occupied Kharkiv this month, which has stirred up Ukraine’s Western backers and sparked recriminations in Moscow.
Referring to the possibility of the escalation and use of nuclear weapons, Putin said: “Those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the prevailing winds will turn in their direction.”
Russian leaders said a “partial mobilization” in the country was necessary to “protect our homeland, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” efforts to begin on Wednesday and their decree signed.
Mobilization means citizens and those with military experience in the reserve will be drafted, he added.
The announcement comes as Russia is believed to be facing manpower shortages and follows Russia’s Tuesday amendment to its military service law that increases penalties for resistance to military service or coercion against official military orders during mobilization or martial law .
Putin has described the ongoing battle as part of a larger struggle for Russia’s survival against the West, which aims to “weak, divide and ultimately destroy our country” – a statement more than the referendum announced in several Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine. The key Kremlin-backed authorities in occupied eastern and southern Ukraine will hold a referendum this week on formally joining Russia.
“They’ve said outright that they were able to split the Soviet Union in 1991, and it’s time for Russia to split into many mutually hostile regions and regions,” he said.
referendum, Putin’s support in remarks on Wednesday could pave the way for Russia’s annexation of the regions, allowing Moscow to label the ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive as an attack on Russia itself, giving Moscow an excuse to escalate its military response.
In seemingly coordinated statements, the Russian-appointed leaders of the occupied Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, as well as the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republics and Donetsk People’s Republics, said they plan to start the war from September 23. “Voting” begins today.
The four regions that announced plans for the referendum together make up about 18 percent of Ukraine’s territory. Russia does not fully control any of the four.
The expected referendum has been announced, contrary to international law that upholds Ukraine’s sovereignty, as world leaders have come to New York for a session of the United Nations General Assembly, where the war and its effects loom.
Ukraine sees announcing a referendum in the occupied region as a “sham” vote for “fear of failure”, while the country’s Western supporters say they will not change their support for Ukraine.
Putin said on Wednesday that Russia had asked the two “people’s republics” and the regions of Kherson and Zaporozhye to support the referendum and pledged to “do everything possible to ensure safe conditions for people to express their will”.
The statements have been quickly supported by Russian politicians. Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and deputy chairman of Russia’s National Security Council, has publicly supported a referendum in the self-proclaimed Donbas Republic, saying it has “great significance” for the “systematic protection” of residents.
Medvedev said on his Telegram channel: “Occupying Russian territory is a crime that allows you to use all your self-defense forces,” apparently alluding to the possibility of a military escalation.
It is unclear what form the escalation might take, but throughout the conflict there have been concerns about whether Russia will resort to using its nuclear arsenal in Ukraine.
U.S. President Joe Biden addressed those concerns in an interview with 60 Minutes earlier this week, when a reporter asked what he would say to the Russian leader about the use of chemical or tactical nuclear weapons.
“No. No. No. You will change the face of warfare since World War II,” Biden said, adding that the U.S. response to such actions would be “significant.”
Putin in June 2020 approved a new “deterrence” strategy that allows for the use of nuclear weapons in response to a non-nuclear attack on Russia that threatens his existence.
On Tuesday, the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, amended the military service law to tighten penalties for violations of military service obligations – such as desertion and evasion of service, according to state news agency TASS.
The Act provides that resistance or coercion related to military service violates official military orders and involves violence or the threat of violence during periods of mobilization or martial law, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.