Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced a partial mobilization of armed forces in Russia as the war in Ukraine drags on for nearly seven months and Moscow is losing ground on the battlefield.
Putin’s address to the nation comes a day after the Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to become integral parts of Russia.
The Kremlin-backed effort to engulf four regions could pave the way for Moscow to escalate the war.
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Putin said he signed a decree on partial mobilization to begin on Wednesday.
“We are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only citizens who are currently in reserve are drafted, and most importantly, those who served in the armed forces have a certain military specialty and relevant experience,” Putin said.
“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all means at our disposal to defend Russia and our people. This is not a bluff.
“The territorial integrity of our fatherland, our independence and freedom, I repeat, will be secured with all the means at our disposal.
“Those trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the prevailing winds may swing in their direction.”
Referendums, which have been expected since the first months of the war, begin on Friday in the Luhansk, Kherson and partially Russian-controlled Zaporizhia and Donetsk regions.
Putin said the partial mobilization decision was “fully proportionate to the threats we face, namely to protect our homeland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity, to ensure the security of our people and the people of the liberated areas.” .
A spokesman for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told 7NEWS that Putin’s threat was “an irresponsible escalation of rhetoric.”
“His claims to defend Russia’s territorial integrity are untrue,” they said.
“Australia is deeply concerned by President Putin’s announcement that Russian reservists will be mobilized to fight in Ukraine.
“Russia should immediately withdraw from Ukraine and stop its illegal and immoral aggression against the Ukrainian people.
“Australia continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with the government and people of Ukraine.”
Earlier Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed Russian plans to hold referendums in occupied territories in eastern and southern Ukraine as “noise” and thanked Ukraine’s allies for condemning the votes.
Former President Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chair of Russia’s Security Council chaired by Putin, said referendums incorporating regions within Russia itself would make newly drawn borders “irreversible” and allow Moscow to use “any means” to secure them To defend.
In his late-night address, Zelenskyy said there were many questions about the announcements, but stressed that they would not change Ukraine’s commitment to retake territory occupied by Russian forces.
“The situation on the front clearly shows that the initiative belongs to Ukraine,” he said. “Our positions don’t change because of the noise or any announcements anywhere. And we enjoy the full support of our partners.”
The upcoming votes will almost certainly go to Moscow.
But they were quickly dismissed as illegitimate by Western leaders, who have been backing Kyiv with military and other support that has helped its forces gain momentum on the battlefields to the east and south.
“I thank all friends and partners of Ukraine for today’s principled condemnation of Russia’s attempts to hold new sham referendums,” said Zelenskyy.
In another signal that Russia is embarking on a protracted and potentially intensified conflict, the Kremlin-controlled lower house of parliament on Tuesday voted to tighten laws against desertion, surrender and looting by Russian troops.
Politicians also voted to introduce possible 10-year prison sentences for soldiers who refuse to fight.
If the law were approved by the House of Lords, as expected, and then signed by Putin, the law would strengthen commanders’ hands against the reported declining morale among soldiers.
In the Russian-held city of Enerhodar, shelling continued around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. Ukrainian energy operator Energoatom said Russian shelling again damaged infrastructure at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, briefly forcing workers to start two diesel generators to provide backup power for cooling pumps for one of the reactors.
Such pumps are essential to avoid a meltdown at a nuclear power plant, even though all six of the plant’s reactors have been shut down. Energoatom said the generators were later shut down when main power was restored.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been a concern for months amid fears shelling could lead to a radiation leak. Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the shelling.
– With 7NEWS
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