Russia on Wednesday announced an immediate partial mobilization of 300,000 reservists and threatened to deploy nuclear weapons in the war against Ukraine.
In a pre-recorded speech broadcast on state television, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was calling up reservists to help Russia’s war against Ukraine, but for now has not implemented a general recruitment drive. He added that, in the first instance, reservists with training and experience will be called up.
Putin’s strategy allows him to dodge the explosive political fallout of more prosperous families in Moscow and St. Petersburg having to send children with no military experience to fight on the front lines.
By making false claims about NATO’s alleged nuclear threats against Russia and claiming that it is at war with the collective West, which is trying to “weaken, divide and destroy” Russia, Putin boasted of Moscow’s superior nuclear weapons.
“To defend Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the weapons resources at our disposal,” Putin said. “This is not a bluff.”
Putin also said Russia would “do everything to provide a safe environment” for Kremlin-installed proxies in four Ukrainian regions that pledged on Tuesday to hold referendums this week to join the Russian Federation.
On Tuesday, Russia’s proxy states in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, the self-proclaimed Lugansk (LPR) and Donetsk (DPR) People’s Republics, declared that they would hold imminent referendums to be recognized as part of Russia. Kremlin-installed officials in southern Ukraine’s Kherson region also indicated they planned to hold a referendum, and pro-Russian authorities in the Zaporizhzhia region indicated they would do the same.
Ukraine, the US, the EU and other Western allies said they would not recognize the results of these bogus referendums.
Stung by a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in recent weeks, state television has been cheering the Russians on for some kind of escalation. The fact that Russia recognizes part of Ukraine as its own territory would set the stage for such a military escalation, ranging from an all-out assault on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure to the use of atomic weapons.
For its part, Kyiv insists that Putin’s threats will not deter its forces from their big push to dislodge Russian soldiers from eastern and southern Ukraine.
Putin also announced that volunteers currently fighting for Russia in its war in Ukraine would be given the same legal status as regular military personnel. He said that those who are people mobilized to fight in the war against Ukraine will be paid and will get the status of military personnel serving under contract.
Speaking immediately after Putin, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the partial mobilization will deploy an additional 300,000 soldiers, who have military experience and specialized training. It will not affect currently recruited students and soldiers. He added that Russia had 25 million men with military experience and said current partial mobilization only covers about 1 percent of that number.
“We are not only fighting with Ukraine, but with the collective West,” Shoigu said. He added that 5,937 Russians had been killed in the war so far. This number is far below the country’s estimated losses, with the Ukrainians saying they have “eliminated” more than 50,000 Russian personnel. Shoigu claimed that the Russians had killed 61,207 Ukrainian soldiers and wounded 49,368.
On the eve of Putin’s speech, air fares from Russia soared and prices continued to rise on Wednesday. Economy seats on Aeroflot from Moscow to Istanbul, for example, were completely sold out for the rest of September, with some business class seats available for thousands of euros.