Ukraine: Putin mobilizes his reserve, says he is ready to use "all means"

It’s not a bluff“, hammered, with a serious face, Mr. Putin, accusing Western countries of wanting “destroy“Russia, to have recourse to the”nuclear blackmail” against her and thus signifying that he was ready to use nuclear weapons.

Faced with lightning counter-offensives by kyiv forces which have pushed back the Russian army, Mr. Putin has chosen to bet on an escalation of the conflict, with a measure which opens the way for the influx of Russian soldiers into Ukraine.

After Tuesday’s announcement of the organization of “referendumsof annexation in four regions of eastern and southern Ukraine from Friday, the step taken by the Russian president marks a turning point in the conflict.

I consider it necessary to support the proposal (of the Ministry of Defence) of partial mobilization of citizens in reserve, those who have already served (…) and who have relevant experience“, Putin said in a taped televised address broadcast Wednesday morning.

We are only talking about partial mobilization“, insisted the Russian president, while rumors of a general mobilization aroused the concern of many Russians.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that 300,000 reservists were affected by this mobilization order, barely “1.1% of mobilized resources“.

This order is effective from Wednesday, said the Russian president. The corresponding decree was published soon after on the Kremlin website.

The US Ambassador to kyiv called the move a “sign of weaknessof Russia, which faces a shortage of manpower to carry out its offensive in Ukraine, which enters its eighth month this week.

Mr. Putin once again attacked the West with virulence, accusing it of having “exceeded all limits in its aggressive policy“and to want”weaken, divide and ultimately destroy our country“.

Nuclear blackmail is also used (…) I would like to remind those who make such statements that our country also has various means of destruction, some of which are more modern than those of NATO countries“, said the Russian president.

We will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.“, he continued. “I say all the means (…) It’s not a bluff“, he insisted.

His Minister of Defence, Mr. Shoigu, told him that Russia was not fighting “not so much Ukraine as the West“.

The announcement of referendums in the areas under Russian control and the announcement of a partial mobilization mark a turning point in the Russian offensive in Ukraine, which began on February 24.

Especially since Russian military doctrine provides for the possibility of resorting to nuclear strikes if territories considered Russian by Moscow are attacked.

Many observers believe that Moscow has underestimated the capacities of resistance of the Ukrainians, motivated and armed by the West.

Mr Putin’s speech comes after the Russian army suffered setbacks in the face of Ukrainian counter-offensives in the regions of Kherson (south) and Kharkiv (north-east), where Moscow forces were forced to give up a lot of ground.

Mr. Shoigu said Wednesday that the Russian army had lost 5,937 soldiers since the start of the offensive, an official toll well above the previous one, but well below Ukrainian and Western estimates which report tens of thousands of losses.

– “Pseudo-referendums” annexation –

On the ground, fighting and bombing continued on Wednesday, with Ukrainian authorities accusing Russia of having again bombed the site of the Zaporizhia power plant (southern Ukraine), the largest in Europe.

On the eve of Mr. Putin’s announcements, the authorities of the separatist zones or under occupation in Ukraine had announced “referendumsof annexation by Russia from September 23 to 27.

These elections will take place in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which form the Donbass (east), as well as in the occupied areas of Kherson and Zaporizhia, in the south.

These votes were immediately criticized by Ukraine, its President Volodymyr Zelensky downplaying the importance of these “pseudo-referendums“.

Westerners also criticized them, with Berlin calling them “fictitious” and Washington of “simulacra“elections.

These votes, on the model of the one which formalized the annexation of the Crimean peninsula (south) by Russia in 2014, denounced by kyiv and the West, have been the subject of preparations for several months.

The timetable seems to have accelerated with the Ukrainian counter-offensive. Russian officials had previously mentioned the date of November 4, the day of Russian national unity.

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