Vladimir Putin announces ‘partial mobilisation’ in escalation of Ukraine war

Vladimir Putin has announced a “partial mobilisation” of Russia’s army reserves in a dramatic escalation of the war in Ukraine.

Speaking in an address to the Russian people on Wednesday morning, the president warned the West that Russia would use all the means at its disposal to protect its territory, saying: “It’s not a bluff.”

Defence minister Sergei Shoigu said later that 300,000 reservists would be called up to fight against Ukraine, from the 25 million available.

Speaking to those in “leading NATO states” who he claimed had talked of “the possibility of using nuclear weapons of mass destruction against Russia,” Mr Putin said: “I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and for separate components and more modern than those of NATO countries.

“And when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal. He added: “It’s not a bluff.”

Mr Putin told the Russian public he ordered the Ministry of Defence to confer a legal status on volunteers fighting in the Donbas region and said he backed the referendums announced by occupied areas to join Russia.

“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 specialty and relevant experience,” the Russian leader said.

Mr Putin said the decision to partially conscript reservists was “fully adequate to the threats we face, namely to protect our homeland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity, to ensure the security of our people and people in the liberated territories.”

In response, British Foreign Office minister Gillian Keegan said it was “quite obviously a worrying escalation” and the threats he made in it must be taken seriously. “It’s something that we should take very seriously because, you know, we’re not in control,” she said. “I’m not sure he’s in control either really. I mean, this is obviously an escalation and, of course, for the Russian people now they will be conscripted into this war.”

She added: “These are Putin’s lies and he’s continuing to completely misrepresent what’s happened in Ukraine. “It’s an illegal war in Ukraine. It’s Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine. Of course, we will still stand by Ukraine, as will all of our NATO allies.”

Mr Putin began his national address early Wednesday, after an unexplained postponement Tuesday.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Wednesday Russia’s mobilisation was a predictable step that will prove extremely unpopular and proves the war is not going according to Moscow’s plan. Mr Podolyak told Reuters that Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to shift the blame for starting an ”unprovoked war” and Russia’s worsening economic situation onto the West.

The country’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had told reporters at the United Nations ahead of a UN General Assembly on Tuesday: “The Russians can do whatever they want. It will not change anything.” The apparently coordinated for referendums to join Russia has been condemned as a “sham” by Western leaders and other allies of Ukraine.

If the referendum plan “wasn’t so tragic it would be funny,” French President Emmanuel Macron also told reporters ahead of the assembly in New York.

Some pro-Kremlin figures have presented the votes as a Russian ultimatum to the West to accept its territorial gains or face an all-out war with a nuclear-armed foe. “Encroachment onto Russian territory is a crime which allows you to use all the forces of self-defence,” Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and now deputy chairman of Putin’s Security Council, said on social media.

In another signal that Russia is digging in for a protracted conflict, the Kremlin-controlled lower of house of parliament voted Tuesday to toughen laws against desertion by Russian troops with tougher prison sentences. If approved, as expected, by the upper house and then signed by the Russian president, the legislation would strengthen commanders’ hands against failing morale reported among soldiers.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday Washington was aware of reports Putin might be considering ordering a mobilisation. That would do nothing to undermine Ukraine’s ability to push back Russian aggression, Mr Sullivan said, adding that Washington rejected any such referendums “unequivocally”.

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