Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting of the Kremlin military-industrial complex in Moscow, Russia, September 20, 2022.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday a partial military mobilization in Russia, a country whose people and economy are in a wartime state as Moscow continues its invasion of Ukraine.
In a rare pre-recorded televised announcement, Putin said in comments translated by Reuters that the West “wanted to destroy our country” and claimed the West was trying to “turn the Ukrainian people into cannon fodder”, repeating his earlier accusations Western countries wage proxy war with Russia.
Putin said the “mobilization campaign” would begin on Wednesday, but gave no further details other than to say he had ordered increased funding to boost Russian arms production.
Partial mobilization is a vague concept, but it could mean that Russian businesses and citizens must contribute more to the war effort. Russia has yet to declare war on Ukraine, despite invading Ukraine in February, calling the invasion a “special military operation.”
In his immediately escalated speech, Putin also accused the West of nuclear blackmail against Russia, and again warned the country “has a lot of weapons to respond” to what he said was the Western threat — adding that he wasn’t bluffing.
Putin has mentioned Russia’s nuclear weapons at various points during the conflict with Ukraine, but there are doubts that Moscow will actually resort to deploying such weapons, which analysts say could amount to waging a third world war.
British Foreign Minister Gillian Keegan told Sky News immediately after the speech that Putin’s comments should not be taken lightly.
“Obviously we should take this very seriously because, you know, we have no control — I’m not sure he can, really. It’s obviously an escalation,” she said.
Russia under pressure
Putin’s remarks come as Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in late February and into the winter, momentum appeared to be on Ukraine’s side after Ukraine launched a blitzkrieg counteroffensive in the northeast and south to regain lost ground.
Speculation on Tuesday that Putin may be about to announce a full or partial mobilization of Russia’s economy and society, paving the way for a possible recruitment of men of Russian age, after Moscow officials in occupied Ukraine announced plans to stage an immediate referendum to join Russia.
The votes – which will be held this weekend in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye and are widely believed to be rigged in favour of joining Russia – will allow the Kremlin to claim, despite the Wrong, it is “defending” its territory and its citizens.
Plans to hold such votes have been widely condemned by Ukraine and its Western allies, who say they will not recognize the votes and efforts to annex more Ukraine, as Russia did with Crimea in 2014.
Putin on Wednesday repeated Moscow’s earlier assertion that Russia was aiming to “liberate” the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, which has two self-described pro-Russian republics, and said he had ordered the government to give it legal status. Volunteers fighting in Donbass, Reuters reported.