Putin Orders a Call-Up of Reservists Amid Ukraine Setbacks

KYIV, Ukraine — Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization of reservists in Russia, in a measure that appeared to be an admission that Moscow’s war against Ukraine isn’t going according to plan after nearly seven months of fighting and amid recent battlefield losses for the Kremlin’s forces.

The Russian leader, in a televised address to the nation aired on Wednesday morning, also warned the West that he isn’t bluffing over using all the means at his disposal to protect Russia’s territory, in what appeared to be a veiled reference to Russia’s nuclear capability. Putin previously warned that the West should not back Russia against the wall, and he rebuked NATO for providing weapons to Ukraine.

According to officials, the total number of reservists that will be called up was 300,000.

Continue reading: The Ukraine turned the tide against Russia

Sergei Shoigu, Russian Defense Ministry, said that only combat- and service veterans will be allowed to mobilize. He said that while there are approximately 25 million individuals who meet this requirement, only 1% will be mobilized.

Putin’s announcement came against the backdrop of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, where Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last February has been the target of broad international criticism.

A Russian soldier, taken prisoner, on a tank with Ukrainian soldiers after the city of Izyum was recaptured from Russian forces on Sept 11, 2022 in Ukraine. (Laurent Van der Stockt for Le Monde/Getty Images)

Russian soldier taken prisoner on a Ukrainian tank, with Ukrainian soldiers, after Izyum, the Ukrainian city, was retaken from Russian forces in September 2022.

Laurent Van der Stockt for Le Monde/Getty Images

The gathering will hear from Volodymyr Zelenskky, the Ukrainian president. Putin didn’t travel to New York.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace described Putin’s mobilization announcement as “an admission that his invasion is failing.”

“He and his defense minister have sent tens of thousands of their own citizens to their deaths, ill-equipped and badly 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 are united and Russia is becoming a global pariah.”

The partial mobilization order came a day after Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold votes on becoming integral parts of Russia — a move that could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war following Ukrainian successes.

Referendums have been scheduled to begin Friday in Luhansk and Kherson, as well as the Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, both of which are Russian-controlled.

Continue reading: Ukraine’s Offensive Raises the Risks of Escalation

War has claimed the lives of thousands and driven food costs up around the globe. It has also brought fears of a potential nuclear catastrophe at Europe’s largest nuclear plant in Ukraine’s now Russia-occupied southeast.

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

He didn’t identify who had made such comments.

“To those who allow themselves such statements regarding Russia, I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and for separate components and more modern than those of NATO countries and when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,” Putin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C), accompanied by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (L) and Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian General Staff, oversees the 'Vostok-2022' military exercises at the Sergeevskyi training ground outside the city of Ussuriysk on the Russian Far East on Sept. 6, 2022. (MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C), is accompanied by Sergei Shoigu, Defense Minister (L), and Valery Gerasimov (the chief of the Russian Military Staff), who oversees the “Vostok-2022” military exercises at Sergeevskyi Training Ground outside Ussuriysk, on the Russian Far East, on September 6, 2022.


He added: “It’s not a bluff.”

Putin claimed that he had already signed the decree to partial mobilization. It is scheduled for Wednesday. A full-scale mobilization would likely be unpopular in Russia and could further dent Putin’s standing after the recent military setbacks in Ukraine.

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

Putin commented on the referendum plans that Russia-backed Ukrainian authorities asked for support from the Kremlin in their efforts to join Russia.

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

The ballots were criticized by foreign leaders as being illegitimate, nonbinding and fraudulent. Zelenskyy said they were a “sham” and “noise” to distract public attention.

Continue reading: Why Ukraine’s Kherson Counteroffensive Matters

Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister said that 5937 Russian soldiers died in Ukraine. This is far below Western estimates that Russia lost thousands.

In his nightly address Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s commitment to retake areas occupied by Russian forces remained unchanged.

“The situation on the front line clearly indicates that the initiative belongs to Ukraine,” he said. “Our positions do not change because of the noise or any announcements somewhere. And we enjoy the full support of our partners in this.”

The dismay of Russians over the war is certain to grow even if there’s only a small mobilization. The Vesna opposition 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 the war. They will die for what? What will mothers and children be crying for?”

It was unclear how many would dare to protest amid Russia’s overall suppression of opposition and harsh laws against discrediting soldiers and the military operation.

Police officers detain a woman during a protest against Russian military action in Ukraine, in central Saint Petersburg on March 13, 2022. (AFP via Getty Images)

On March 13th 2022, police officers in central Saint Petersburg detained a woman who was protesting against Russian military actions in Ukraine.

AFP via Getty Images

The upcoming referendum votes are all but certain to go Moscow’s way.

Another sign that Russia is preparing for an extended and potentially more intense conflict was Tuesday’s vote by the Kremlin-controlled lower house to tighten Russian troop desertion and surrender laws. The lawmakers also approved possible 10-year imprisonment terms for soldiers who refused to fight.

If approved, as expected, by the upper house and then signed by Putin, the legislation would strengthen commanders’ hands against failing morale reported among soldiers.

Continue reading: Putin is now a lesser-valued ally in the Ukraine War

In the Russian-occupied city of Enerhodar, shelling continued around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. Energoatom Ukraine, the Ukrainian energy operator said Russian shelling damaged another part of Zaporizhzhia’s infrastructure and temporarily forced workers to use two diesel generators as an emergency supply to one of its reactors.

Such pumps are essential for avoiding a meltdown at a nuclear facility even though all six of the plant’s reactors have been shut down. Energoatom stated that the generators were switched off after main power had been restored.

Because of the possibility that radiation could leak from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, it has been an area of concern since months. Russia and Ukraine are blaming each other for the bombardment.

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