Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization of Russia’s reservists on Wednesday, in a measure that appears to be an admission thatNot going according to plan. The Russian leader, in a televised address to the nation, also made what appears to be a veiled reference to Russia’s nuclear capability.
Putin accused the West of engaging in “nuclear blackmail” and claimed, without specifying anyone specifically, that there were “statements of some senior representatives of NATO countries about the possibility of using nuclear weapons of mass destruction against Russia.”
“To those who allow themselves such statements in relation to Russia, I would like to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction … And when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we certainly use all the means at our disposal,” Putin said. This is not a hoax.”
The move prompted some Russians to scramble to buy plane tickets to flee the country.
In Armenia, Sergey arrived with his 17-year-old son, saying that they were preparing for such a scenario. Another Russian, Valery, said that his wife’s family lives in Kyiv, and mobilization is out of the question for him “only for the moral side alone.” Both men refused to reveal their names.
Despite Russia’s harsh laws against criticism of the military and the war, angry protesters from the crowd overcame their fear of arrest to organize protests in cities across the country. Nearly 1,200 Russians have been arrested in anti-war demonstrations in cities including Moscow and Saint Petersburg, according to the independent Russian human rights organization OVD-Info.
Associated Press journalists in Moscow witnessed at least dozens of arrests in the first 15 minutes of a nighttime protest in the capital, as police in body armor dealt with protesters in front of shops, taking some away, chanting “No to war!”
“I am not afraid of anything. The most valuable thing they can take from us is the life of our children. I will not give them the life of my child,” said one Muscovite, who declined to give her name.
Asked if protesting would help, she said, “It won’t help, but it is my civic duty to express my position. No to war!”
In Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth largest city, police in buses transported some of the 40 protesters arrested at an anti-war rally. A woman in a wheelchair yelled, referring to the Russian president: “He made a bald-headed hazel. He’s going to throw a bomb on us, and we’re all still protecting him. I said enough is enough.”
The opposition Fsna movement called for the protests, saying: “Thousands of Russian men – our fathers, our brothers, our husbands – will be thrown into a war meat grinder. What will they die for? What are the mothers and children crying for?”
The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office has warned that organizing or participating in protests could result in a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Authorities issued similar warnings before further protests. Wednesday’s demonstrations were the first nationwide anti-war protests since the fighting began in late February.
Large-scale mobilization is likely to be unpopular in Russia and could subsequently weaken Putin’s standingin Ukraine.
“We are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be subject to conscription, and, above all, those who served in the armed forces have a certain military specialization and relevant experience,” Putin said in his message. Tabuk.
The total number of reservists who will be called up to fight will be 300,000, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said, adding that only those with relevant combat and service experience will be mobilized. He said there are about 25 million people who meet those criteria, but only about 1% of them will be called.
Shoigu also said that 5,937 Russian soldiers have been killed in the conflict in Ukraine so far, a number far below Western estimates that Russia has lost tens of thousands.
“President Putin spoke in his speech about how conditions have changed during the special military operation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday. “It was President Putin who said that in fact we are now facing the military capabilities of NATO and a number of other countries that are not friendly to us,” he added.
In a statement Wednesday evening, Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken said Putin’s move “reflects the Kremlin’s battlefield struggles, the unpopularity of the war, and the Russians’ unwillingness to fight in it. President Putin is not operating from a position of strength but another sign of the failure of his mission.”
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace described Putin’s announcement of the mobilization as “an admission of the failure of his invasion”.
“He and his Secretary of Defense have sent tens of thousands of their compatriots to their deaths, ill-equipped and poorly,” Wallace said in a statement. “No amount of threats and propaganda can hide the fact that Ukraine is winning this war, that the international community is united and that Russia has become a global pariah.”
In another sign that Russia has been trying to fight a long-running conflict that may have escalated, the Kremlin-controlled lower house of parliament voted on Tuesday to toughen laws against desertion, surrender and pillage by Russian forces. Lawmakers also voted to impose 10-year prison sentences on soldiers refusing to fight. If, as expected, it is approved by the Senate and then signed by Putin, the legislation will strengthen the hands of commanders against deteriorating morale among soldiers.
The partial mobilization order came a day after Russia-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold a vote on becoming an integral part of Russia — a move that could pave the way for Moscow to escalate the war after Ukrainian successes.
CBS News’ Deborah Bata reports that some of these successes have seen Russian forces retreat from previously occupied villages just two miles from the Russian border.
“I think we have full control over this…the enemy has completely withdrawn from this area,” a Ukrainian unit commander in Kazacha Luban, a Ukrainian region occupied by Russia on the first day of the war, told Bata.
“Our goal is not to let the enemy in here again,” Oblot said.
In his evening speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine’s commitment to reclaiming areas occupied by Russian forces had not changed.
“The situation on the front line clearly indicates that the initiative belongs to Ukraine,” he said. “Our positions don’t change because of noise or any advertisements somewhere. We have the full support of our partners in this.”
Referendums, which had been expected since the first months of the war, will begin on Friday in the partially Russian-controlled regions of Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhia and Donetsk. They are all sure to go the Moscow route.
Foreign leaders described the ballot papers as illegal and non-binding. Zelensky said it was a “trick” and “noise” to distract the audience.
“The referendum and shamanic mobilization are signs of Russian weakness and failure,” US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink wrote on Twitter. “The United States will never recognize Russia’s claim to the Ukrainian territory it allegedly annexed, and we will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
“After the referendums, protecting the people of this region will not be our right, but our duty,” Russian Senator Konstantin Kosachev wrote via Telegram. “An attack on people and territory would be an attack on Russia. With all the consequences,” he said.
“What are they going to die for?”
Even a partial mobilization of Russian forces is likely to increase Russian dissatisfaction with the war.
The Russian opposition movement Vesna called for protests across the country on Wednesday, saying that “thousands of Russian men – our fathers, our brothers, our husbands – will be thrown into a meat grinder at war. What will they die for? What will the mothers and children be? Crying over?”
AFP reported that imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, in a video statement during his court appearance, said that partial mobilization “will lead to a massive tragedy, with a massive number of deaths … in order to preserve his personality” in power, Putin went to a state neighborhood and killed people there and now sends a large number of Russian citizens to this war. ”
It was not clear how many would dare protest amid Russia’s sweeping crackdown on dissent and its harsh laws against vilification of soldiers and the military operation.
Putin’s announcement came against the backgroundMoscow’s invasion of Ukraine last February was the target of widespread international criticism. The Russian leader was not personally present.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is scheduled to address the crowd in a pre-recorded speech on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, in the Russian-occupied city of Enerhodar, the bombing continued around the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. Ukrainian energy company Energoatom said the Russian bombing had once again destroyed infrastructure in the regionWorkers were briefly forced to run two diesel generators for emergency power to the cooling pumps of one of the reactors.
These pumps are necessary to avoid a meltdown in a nuclear facility even though all six reactors at the plant are closed. Energoatom said the generators were later shut down as mains electricity returned.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been a focus of interest for several months due to concerns that the bombing could lead to a radioactive leak. Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the bombing.