March 30, 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a mobilization on Wednesday that would call up some 300,000 troops in a dramatic escalation of the conflict, after a counteroffensive in Ukraine forced the Kremlin attackers into a humiliating retreat.

In a televised address, the dictator issued an unequivocal warning to the West about what he called “nuclear blackmail” as his power grows.

“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all available means to protect our people. It’s not a bluff,” he said. “He had plenty of weapons to answer.”

The mobilization—the first ordered in Russia since World War II—stopped calling Russia’s 2 million reservists into action or instigating a full national draft. But the troop surge represents a significant moment in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine since Russian tanks crossed the border for the first time in February.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 300,000 people with some military experience would be included in the call-up, which has been widely reported as a “partial mobilization”. But the experts mentioned The text that orders the mobilization says nothing about being partial, nor is there any legal restriction on the Kremlin ultimately being able to call them without military experience. Fear of hiring may be partly to blame for a spike in Google searches for “how to leave Russia” on Tuesday. Medusa Report

Putin claimed that mobilization was needed by pressure from the West to “transfer military operations to our territory” with the ultimate goal of “complete plunder of our country” in Kiev.

“Nuclear blackmail has also been used,” Putin added, referring to Ukraine’s Russian-held Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, where a nearby explosion has raised concerns about a possible nuclear incident from international observers.

He also condemned NATO leaders for talking about the “possibility and acceptability of using weapons of mass destruction—nuclear weapons—against Russia.” Putin added: “To those who allow themselves to make such statements about Russia, I would like to remind you that our country also has different means of destruction and in some elements is more modern than NATO countries.”

He said his aim was to “liberate” the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine. “Russia cannot leave people living nearby, torn apart by executioners and failing to respond to their desire to determine their own destiny,” Putin added.

Western leaders and military officials derided Putin’s speech on Wednesday, saying the mobilization was a desperate move that would not go into Russia’s plans for aggression. In a statement, Britain’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Putin had “sent thousands of his 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 is united and Russia is becoming a global pariah,” he added.

Putin’s speech came after Russia’s State Duma passed legislation on Tuesday introducing harsher penalties for soldiers who “voluntarily” surrender to combat or who refuse to obey orders. It added the concept of “mobilization, martial law and wartime” to the Russian Criminal Code for the first time.

As fears spread that unification is imminent, four of the Kremlin’s proxy leaders in Ukraine’s occupied territories have announced they will hold a “referendum” on formally joining Russia this week.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a broadcast Tuesday night, vowed to resist attempts to carve up his nation. “We enjoy the full support of our partners in this,” he said. “So let’s keep the pressure on. Let’s keep unity. Let’s save Ukraine. We are liberating our land. And we show no signs of weakness.”

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