Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, announced the partial mobilization of the military reserves on Wednesday. This incredibly controversial decision provoked rare protests around the nation and resulted in nearly 1,200 arrests. This marks a dramatic uptick in his war in Ukraine after many failures on the battlefield increased pressure on the Kremlin to take action.
In a rare national speech, Putin also supported Russian annexation plans for the seized territories in southern and eastern Ukraine and seemed to threaten nuclear retaliation if Kyiv persisted in its efforts to recapture that territory.
Nearly seven months after Putin’s troops invaded Ukraine, they suffered humiliating failures that led to the dangerous order. Relationships with Ukraine’s Western allies deteriorated due to this call-up being the first of its kind in Russia since World War II, derided by them as a sign of weakness and desperation.
The declaration came after four Russian-controlled regions said they would hold elections this week to decide whether to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. Kyiv and its Western allies slammed the proposal as a desperate “sham” meant to prevent a victorious counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces.
Russians are scrambling to purchase flight tickets.
In his 14-minute, nationally aired speech, Putin also warned the West, ostensibly regarding his nuclear arsenal: “I’m not bluffing about utilizing everything at my disposal to safeguard Russia.” He has previously criticized NATO nations for arming Ukraine.
Putin warned that the West’s nuclear blackmail was no laughing matter, and Russia would use all available methods to defend what it considered its territory. Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, who spoke after him, stated that 300,000 reservists would first be called up.
He said that the only people who will be deployed have relevant combat and military experience. Most professional troops are prohibited from ending their contracts and leaving duty until the partial mobilization is lifted by another decree provision, which took effect immediately.
The Kremlin has struggled to resupply its forces in Ukraine, apparently even turning to mass recruitment in jails, due to severe military losses, growing front lines, and a confrontation that has lasted longer than intended.
Putin’s order ordering the partial mobilization, which became effective right away, had few details, increasing concerns that the scope of the draft might be expanded at any time. One phrase, in particular, was kept a secret.
The mobilization enraged demonstrators, who overcame their fear of arrest to conduct demonstrations in cities across the nation despite Russia’s strict rules prohibiting criticism of the military and the conflict. According to the independent Russian human rights organization OVD-Info, about 1,200 Russians were detained during anti-war protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
As demonstrators screamed “No to war,” police in heavy body armor tackled them in front of stores and hauled some of them away, making at least a dozen arrests in the first 15 minutes of the nocturnal protest in the capital.
Police loaded some of the 40 protestors detained at an anti-war march in Yekaterinburg, the fourth-largest city in Russia, onto buses. “Goddamn bald-headed ‘nut job,’” a woman in a wheelchair said about the Russian president. “We’re still defending him even though he’s about to explode a bomb on us. It’s all been said.”
In a Wednesday speech at the UN General Assembly, President Joe Biden ripped into Moscow, telling international leaders that Putin’s war is “about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist.”
Biden added, assuring that the United States would continue to stand with “courageous Ukrainian soldiers,” “If states can pursue their imperial goals without consequences, then we put at jeopardy what this very institution stands for — everything.”
Putin’s escalation, according to Washington, was a predictable move that demonstrated the futility of his military effort.
In reaction, Bridget Brink, the American ambassador to Ukraine, stated that mobilization and phony referenda were indications of Russian weakness.
She declared, “We will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. The United States will never acknowledge Russia’s claim to allegedly acquire Ukrainian territory.”
Similar words were used by the Defense Department to describe Putin’s most recent action.
The Moscow prosecutor’s office warned that organizing protests or participating in them might result in sentences of up to 15 years in jail. Before other protests, authorities have issued similar warnings. The nationwide anti-war demonstrations on Wednesday were the first since the combat started in late February.
As a result of other Russians rushing to flee the country, planes left the nation rapidly sold out.
The second-largest city in Ukraine, Kharkiv, saw residents feel discouraged about the mobilization as they observed first responders clearing rubble from Russian missile attacks on two apartment complexes