Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting on the military-industrial complex at the Kremlin on September 20, 2022 in Moscow, Russia.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial military mobilization in Russia on Wednesday, putting the country’s population and economy on a war footing as Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine continues.
In a rare pre-recorded televised announcement, Putin said the West “wants to destroy our country” and claimed the West had tried to “turn the Ukrainian people into cannon fodder”, in comments translated by Reuters, repeating earlier claims that has blamed Western nations to start a proxy war with Russia.
Putin said “mobilization events” would begin on Wednesday without providing many more details, other than to say he had ordered an increase in funding to boost Russia’s weapons production.
A partial mobilization is a nebulous concept, but it could mean that Russian companies and citizens have to contribute more to the war effort. Russia has not yet declared war on Ukraine, despite invading it in February, calling its invasion a “special military operation”.
In what was immediately hailed as an escalating address, Putin also accused the West of engaging in nuclear blackmail against Russia and again warned that the country had “many weapons to respond” to what he said were threats Westerners, adding that he was not bluffing. .
Putin has alluded to Russia’s nuclear weaponry at various times during the conflict with Ukraine, but there are doubts whether Moscow would actually resort to deploying such a weapon, and analysts say it could be tantamount to starting a third world war.
British Foreign Secretary Gillian Keegan told Sky News immediately after the speech that Putin’s comments should not be taken lightly.
“It’s clearly something that we should take very seriously because, you know, we’re not in control – I’m not sure he is either, really. This is obviously an escalation,” he said.
Russia under pressure
Putin’s comments come as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began in late February, approaches the winter period with momentum appearing to be on Ukraine’s side after it launched lightning counter-offensives in the northeast and to the south to recover lost territory.
Speculation mounted on Tuesday that Putin may be about to announce a full or partial mobilization of the Russian economy and society, paving the way for a possible draft of Russian men of fighting age, after officials installed by Moscow in the occupied areas of Ukraine announce plans to organize immediately. referendums to join Russia.
The votes – which will take place in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia this weekend and with the results expected to be rigged in favor of joining Russia – would allow the Kremlin to claim, albeit falsely, that it “defends ” its own territory and citizens.
Plans to hold those votes were widely condemned by Ukraine and its Western allies who said they would not recognize the polls and efforts to annex more of Ukraine, as Russia did with Crimea in 2014.
Putin on Wednesday repeated Moscow’s earlier claims that Russia’s goal is to “liberate” Donbas, a region in eastern Ukraine that is home to two self-proclaimed pro-Russian republics, and said he had ordered the government to grant legal status to volunteers fighting in Donbas, Reuters reported.