Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced decision to fall on about 300,000 extra troops to fight in Ukraine following recent setbacks suffered on the battlefield which resulted in Ukraine liberating some captured territories.
According to President Putin, the partial mobilisation is necessary to ensure Russian territorial integrity.
However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the latest decision by Mr Putin showed he wants to drown Ukraine in blood– including that of his own soldiers.
Meanwhile, the 300,000 military reservists announced make up a fraction of the about 25 million Russian reservists which constitute people who have done their compulsory military service.
The mobilisation is the first since World War II and comes after Ukraine made gains in a rapid counter-offensive this month, putting the Kremlin on the back foot. Ukrainian forces have recaptured key towns and villages in the northern Kharkiv region and have made a slower, but still significant progress in the southern Kherson region. Russia, however, still holds about a fifth of the country.
Many critics are of the view that the decree is short on detail, as it says nothing about a cap on numbers or about any exceptions, such as not recruiting students or conscripts. Instead, it is left to regional heads to decide how to meet quotas. In theory, the net could be cast far wider than the Kremlin has specified.
Reacting to this, Russian officials said it would announce “very soon” those who would be exempted from its partial mobilisation. The call-up stops short of full conscription, a move that would have risked turning a public that has so far largely been in favour of the conflict than against it.
In his televised address, Mr. Putin also issued a thinly veiled threat he could use nuclear weapons. He mentioned that the West is engaging in “nuclear blackmail” and that Moscow has “lots of weapons to reply”. “When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. It’s not a bluff,” he said.
US President Joe Biden slammed Mr Putin’s actions and said “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “shamelessly violated” the core tenets of being a member of the UN, he added.
The Announcement Draws Condemnation
Mr Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilisation drew immediate condemnation from Ukraine’s allies.
Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte called the mobilisation “a sign of panic” while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called it “an act of desperation”.
Mr Putin’s address has raised fears that some men of fighting age would not be allowed to leave Russia, even though Russia’s defence minister, Sergey Shoigu, said the call-up would be limited to those with combat experience.
One Russian man reacting to the move said “Nothing guarantees that martial law won’t be declared at some point in the future. And then it’ll be really impossible for anyone to do anything at all”.
There has also been a strong reaction on social media. One Twitter user wrote: “I’m not going to go to war, go screw yourselves. Not only will I surrender right away, I’ll also show you the way to the Kremlin.”
Video shared on social media has shown a smattering of small protests, including the capital Moscow.
Signs of public dissent have become increasingly rare in Russia. The conflct in Ukraine is still referred to as a “special military operation” in Russian state media, with the word “war” banned.
Flights out of Russia sold out fast following the announcement. Direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul in Turkey and Yerevan in Armenia, appear to have sold out for the next few days. Both destinations allow Russians to enter without a visa.