• Moscow plans to call up 300,000 people
• It shows Russia is losing war, says West
President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s first wartime mobilisation since World War Two yesterday, shocking his countrymen with what Western countries described as an act of desperation in the face of a losing war.
Putin made the announcement in a televised address in which he also announced moves to annex swaths of Ukrainian territory and threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, declaring: “It’s not a bluff”.
Flights out of Russia quickly sold out.
In a country that counts millions of former conscripts as reservists, Putin’s “partial mobilisation” decree gave no clue as to who would be called up. Defence Secretary Sergei Shoigu said 300,000 people would be mobilised from a pool of 25mn. Contracts of professional troops would be extended indefinitely.
Putin also effectively announced plans to annex four Ukrainian provinces, saying Moscow would assist with referendums on joining Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions to Russia, and implement the results.
Offering no evidence, Putin accused officials in Nato states of threatening to use nuclear weapons against Russia. They should know that “the weathervane can turn towards them”, he said. Russia “also has various means of destruction”.
“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.” Biden, in a speech to world leaders at the UN General Assembly responded: “Again, just today, President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe, in a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of the non-proliferation regime.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he thought Putin would be unlikely to use nuclear weapons, but that the threat itself showed why it was vital to stand up to him.
“Tomorrow Putin can say: ‘Apart from Ukraine, we also want a part of Poland, otherwise we will use nuclear weapons.’ We cannot make these compromises,” Zelensky told Germany’s Bild newspaper.
Moments after Putin’s announcement, recruitment offices had already handed packs of conscription papers to homeowners’ associations, said St Petersburg human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov, who advises clients on conscription. Medics in Moscow were “receiving summonses from recruitment offices en masse to come and receive mobilisation orders”, he told Reuters.
In a note seen by Reuters, one major company told staff: “We already have employees who have received summonses for tomorrow. Everyone should be aware that it is possible they will be summoned in the morning and be unable to work the next day.
In his speech to the UN General Assembly, Biden said Russia had violated the UN charter by invading a neighbouring state.
“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people,” the American president said. “Wherever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe.... That should make your blood run cold.”
“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,” said British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
Zelensky adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Putin’s address “looks more like an attempt to justify their own failure”.
“The war is clearly not going according to Russia’s scenario and therefore required Putin to make extremely unpopular decisions to mobilise and severely restrict the rights of people,” Podolyak told Reuters in a text message.