Vladimir Putin has confirmed the partial mobilization of citizen forces in Russia in a rare address to the nation. The forces will be sent to the frontlines of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, where Russia has suffered steep losses.
“In order to protect our homeland, its sovereignty, and territorial integrity, to ensure the security of our people and people in the liberated territories, I consider it necessary to support the proposal of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff to conduct partial mobilization in the Russian Federation,” Putin said in a speech on Wednesday morning, according to CNN.
The Russian president added that the partial mobilization would be begin today, with an decree already having been signed. “I repeat, we are talking only about partial mobilization,” he said. “That is, only those citizens who are in the reserve and, above all, those who served in the armed forces, have certain military specialties and relevant experience, will be subject to conscription.”
During the speech, Putin also took aim at the West, who he accused of interfering in the territorial integrity of Russia. He claimed the West started a war against Russia in Ukraine in 2014.
“The goal of the West is to weaken, divide and ultimately destroy our country,” he said. “They are already saying directly that they were able to split the Soviet Union in 1991 and now the time has come for Russia to break up into a multitude of regions and areas which are fatally hostile to each other.”
The address made clear reference to nuclear weapons, with Putin issuing a threat to opposing nations.
“Nuclear blackmail has also been used. We are talking not only about the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant — encouraged by the West — which threatens to cause a nuclear catastrophe, but also about statements from senior representatives of NATO countries about the possibility and permissibility of using weapons of mass destruction against Russia: nuclear weapons,” he said. “I would like to remind those who make such statements about Russia that our country also possesses various means of destruction, and in some cases they are more modern than those of NATO countries. When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we, of course, will use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.”
Putin continued, “This is not a bluff. The citizens of Russia can be sure that the territorial integrity of our homeland, our independence and freedom will be ensured, I will emphasize this again, with all the means at our disposal. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the prevailing winds can turn in their direction.”
Following the address, Russia’s minister of defense, Sergey Shoigu, confirmed that about 300,000 people with military experience will be called to duty.
Earlier this week, President Joe Biden responded to a question from a reporter on what he would say to Putin about the possible use of chemical or tactical nuclear weapons. “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t,” Biden replied. “You will change the face of war unlike anything since World War II.”
Putin’s speech followed the announcement yesterday that officials from Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine, including Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, would conduct referendums on accession to the Russian Federation. During the ongoing war, Russia has lost tens of thousands of troops and is now struggling to recruit new soldiers, with public support for the invasion waning.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter last night that “any Russian sham ‘referenda’ in Ukraine would be illegitimate and an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity that are the foundation of the UN.”
He added, “If Russia does stage these sham ‘referenda,’ the United States and the international community will never recognize Russia’s claims to any purportedly-annexed parts of Ukraine. We continue to stand with the people of Ukraine.”