March 30, 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the partial mobilization of reservists in Russia, a move that appeared to be a concession. Moscow’s war on Ukraine After nearly seven months of war and recent battlefield losses for the Kremlin’s forces, things are not going according to plan.

In a televised address to the nation broadcast Wednesday morning, the Russian leader also warned the West that he was not bluffing about using all means at his disposal to defend Russian territory, in what appeared to be a veiled reference to Russia’s nuclear power. Power Putin has previously warned the West not to back Russia against the wall and reprimanded NATO countries for supplying weapons to help Ukraine.

The total number of reserves to be called up is 300,000, officials said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said only those with relevant combat and service experience would be mobilized. He also added that there are about 25 million people who fit this criteria, but only 1% of them will be integrated.

Putin’s announcement came in the context of this United Nations General Assembly in New YorkWhile Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last February has been the target of widespread international criticism.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is scheduled to address the rally in a pre-scheduled address on Wednesday. Putin did not go to New York.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech in Moscow
In this still image taken from video released on September 21, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech announcing the partial mobilization of Russian reserves during the Russia-Ukraine military conflict.

Russia’s Presidential Press Service via Reuters

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace called Putin’s declaration of mobilization “an acknowledgment that his offensive is failing.”

“He and his defense secretary sent thousands of their own citizens to their deaths, ill-equipped and poorly led,” Wallace said in a statement. “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.”

The partial integration order came a day after the Russian-held regions of eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to vote on whether to become an integral part of Russia – a move that could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war following Ukraine’s breakthrough.

Referendums, expected to take place since the first month of the war, will begin on Friday in Luhansk, Kherson and the partially Russian-controlled Zaporizhia and Donetsk regions.

The US ambassador to Ukraine called the partial rally a sign of “weakness”.

Bridget Brink tweeted, “Sham referendum and mobilization are signs of Russian failure weakness. The US will never recognize Russia’s claim to allegedly annex Ukrainian territory and we will stand with Ukraine as long as it takes.”

The war, which has killed tens of thousands of people, has raised global food prices and fueled energy costs. It also brought fears of a potential nuclear disaster at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine’s now Russian-occupied southeast.

In his speech, Putin accused the West of engaging in “nuclear blackmail” and cited “statements by some high-ranking representatives of leading NATO states about the possibility of using nuclear weapons of mass destruction against Russia.”

He did not identify who made the comments.

“Those who allow themselves to make such statements about Russia, I want to remind you that our country also has different means of destruction, and for individual elements and more modern than NATO countries, and when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, Russia and our people Protect, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,” Putin said.

He added: “This is not a bluff.”

Putin said he had already signed the decree for partial integration, which is scheduled to begin on Wednesday. A full-scale mobilization could be unpopular in Russia and further undermine Putin’s standing after the recent military debacle in Ukraine.

“We are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only those who are currently in the reserve will be recruited and, above all, those who have served in the armed forces and have a certain military specialty and relevant experience,” Putin said.

Regarding the referendum plan, Putin noted that the Russian-backed authorities in the occupied Ukrainian territories have asked the Kremlin to support their efforts to become part of Russia.

“We will do everything to provide safe conditions during the referendum, so that people can express their will,” Putin stressed.

Foreign leaders have described the ballots as illegitimate and binding. Zelensky said they were a “sham” and “noise” meant to distract the public.

Russian Defense Minister Shoigu also said 5,937 Russian soldiers had died in the Ukraine conflict, far below Western estimates that Russia has lost tens of thousands.

Zelensky said in his nightly speech that Ukraine’s commitment to recapture areas occupied by Russian forces remains unchanged.

“The situation on the front line clearly indicates that the initiative belongs to Ukraine,” he said. “There is no noise or announcement to change our position. And we enjoy the full support of our partners in this.”

Even a partial mobilization could increase disillusionment among Russians about the war. The anti-Vesna movement called for nationwide protests on Wednesday, saying, “Thousands of Russian men – our fathers, brothers and husbands – will be thrown into the meat grinder of war. What will they die for? What will mothers and children do? Cry for?”

It was unclear how many would dare to protest amid Russia’s overall crackdown on dissent and the disrespect of soldiers and draconian laws against military operations.

Votes in the upcoming referendum are sure to go Moscow’s way.

In another sign that Russia is digging for a protracted and possibly escalating conflict, the Kremlin-controlled lower house of parliament voted on Tuesday to toughen laws against desertion, surrender and looting by Russian troops. Lawmakers also voted to introduce a possible 10-year prison term for soldiers who refuse to fight.

Expectedly, if approved by the upper house and then signed by Putin, the law will strengthen the hand of commanders against reported failing morale among troops.

In the Russian-held town of Enerhodor, shelling continues around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. Ukrainian energy operator Energotom said Russian shelling again damaged infrastructure at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant and briefly forced workers to turn on two diesel generators to provide emergency power to the cooling pumps for one of the reactors.

Such pumps are essential to avoid meltdowns at the nuclear plant even if the plant’s six reactors are shut down. Energoatom said the generators were later shut down as the main power line was restored.

The Zaporizhia nuclear power plant has been the focus of concern for months because of possible radiation leaks due to shelling. Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the shelling.

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