Putin speech: Russia announces immediate ‘partial mobilization’ of citizens to attack Ukraine

In a speech, Putin said he would use “every means at our disposal” if he believed Russia’s “territorial integrity” was threatened, even raising the specter of nuclear weapons.

The mobilization meant that citizens from the reserve could be drafted, while those with military experience would be drafted, Putin said, adding that the necessary decrees had been signed and entered into force on Wednesday.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Russian television Wednesday morning that the country would call up 300,000 reservists. “These are not people who have never heard of the military,” Shoigu said. “These are people who have served in the military, have military registration majors, and have military experience.”

“Our country also has various means of sabotage, which in some respects are more modern than those of the NATO countries, and if the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” Putin said in his remarks on Wednesday. Said that this could open a new chapter in the months-long conflict.

Referring to the possibility of 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.”

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 described the ongoing battle as part of a larger struggle for Russia’s survival against Western goals “to weaken, divide and ultimately destroy our country.” Several Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine have announced they will hold a referendum this week on formally joining Russia in what has been widely dismissed as a hoax designed to justify further attacks on Ukrainian territory by Putin.

“They have said directly that they were able to split the Soviet Union in 1991, and now is the time for Russia to split into many mutually hostile regions and regions,” Putin said.

But NATO leaders took the announcement as a sign of panic in the Kremlin and reiterated their commitment to supporting Ukraine’s military.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the mobilization and the Kremlin’s planned vote.

“Just today, President Putin made a public nuclear threat to Europe … now Russia is calling in more soldiers to join the fight, and the Kremlin is organizing a fake referendum to try to annex parts of Ukraine,” Biden said. “The world should see these heinous acts.

Biden added: “Putin claims he has to act because Russia is threatened, but no one threatens Russia — no one seeks conflict but Russia.”

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Schultz called the mobilization an “act of desperation”.

“Russia cannot win this war. But it is a panic reaction,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte added on Wednesday.

A destroyed Russian tank in Izium, a town recently liberated by Ukrainian armed forces.

Referendum announced

The referendum, which Putin backed in his speech on Wednesday, could pave the way for Russia to annex those areas, 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.

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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.

Bridget Brinker, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, tweeted on Wednesday, “Fake referendums and mobilizations are signs of weakness, or a sign of Russian failure. The U.S. will never recognize Russia’s claim to annexation of Ukrainian territory, and we will Continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as needed.”

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”.

Possibility to upgrade

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.

But social media videos targeted by CNN showed protests in several Russian cities on Wednesday, with what appeared to be dozens of people in each city. In total, more than 100 people have been detained during reactionary demonstrations, independent monitoring group OVD-Info said.

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.
A billboard promoting the service of contract soldiers with the slogan
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.

“Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. You’re going to change the face of war unlike anything 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, 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.

Josh Pennington, Uliana Pavlova, and CNN’s Jennifer Hansler, Anna Chernova, and Tim Lister contributed to this report.

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