Russian president Vladimir Putin said he had signed a decree on partial mobilisation beginning on Wednesday, saying he was defending Russian territories and that the West wanted to destroy the country.
In a televised address this morning, Mr Putin said his aim was to “liberate” east Ukraine’s Donbas region, and that most people in the region did not want to return to what he called the “yoke” of Ukraine.
In ordering Russia’s first mobilisation since the second World War Two, Mr Putin warned the West that if it continued what he called its “nuclear blackmail” that Moscow would respond with the might of all its vast arsenal.
“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we use all available means to protect our people — this is not a bluff,” Mr Putin said in a televised address to the nation.
Mr Putin’s signing of the decree on partial mobilisation significantly escalates the Russian-Ukraine war.
“Today our armed forces are operating across a frontline that exceeds 1,000km, opposing not only neo-Nazi formations but the entire military machine of the collective West,” the Russian president said.
“In such a situation, I consider it necessary to make the following decision, which is fully appropriate to threats we face. Namely, in order to protect our motherland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to ensure the safety of our people and people in the liberated territories, I consider it necessary to support the proposal of the defence ministry and the General Staff to conduct a partial mobilisation in the Russian federation.”
“Parliaments in the People’s Republics of the Donbas as well as the civil-military administrations in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions have decided to hold referendums on the future of the territories and have appealed to Russia to support such a step. We will do everything to ensure safe conditions to hold the referendums, so that people can express their will,” Mr Putin told his audience.
“We will support the decision on their future, which will be made by the majority of residents in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.”
“The purpose of this West is to weaken, divide and ultimately destroy our country. They are already saying that in 1991 they were able to break up the Soviet Union, and now the time has come for Russia itself, that it should disintegrate. And they have been planning it for a long time,” Mr Putin said.
The United States has joined other western countries in condemning Moscow’s plans to hold urgent “referendums” in parts of Ukraine that are currently under Russian control.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken said the United States will never recognise Russian claims to any annexed parts of Ukraine, even if the votes are held.
Any Russian referendums in Ukraine would be illegitimate and an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity that are the foundation of the UN charter, Mr Blinken said.
“If Russia does stage these sham ‘referenda’, the United States and the international community will never recognise Russia’s claims to any purportedly-annexed parts of Ukraine. We continue to stand with the people of Ukraine,” he said.
The proxy Russian authorities in four occupied areas of Ukraine — Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — announced on Tuesday their intentions to hold referendums between September 23rd and 27th on joining the Russian Federation, a move that could sharply escalate the war.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaking in a video address released early on Wednesday, said in relation to the referendums: “Our position does not change according to this noise or any other announcement”. Mr Zelenskiy will speak to the UN general assembly by video-link on Wednesday.
Kyiv said the referendums were meaningless and vowed to “eliminate” threats posed by Russia, saying its forces would keep retaking territory regardless of what Moscow or its proxies announced.
The White House said Moscow may be making the move to recruit troops in the areas after suffering extensive losses on the battlefield.
Jake Sullivan, US president Joe Biden’s national security adviser, called the referendums an affront to principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Several world leaders have said they will not recognise any referendums or new annexations of Ukrainian territory, with French president Emmanuel Macron calling the plan a “parody”.
Any referendums on joining Russia in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories would destroy any remaining window for talks between Kyiv and Moscow, the Ukrainian president’s office spokesman was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Ukraine’s armed forces said on Tuesday evening that its operations in Donetsk near the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka caused Russia to suffer “significant losses”.
But Russia shelled those towns and dozens more in northeastern and southern Ukraine, the general staff said.
Elsewhere, with Germany’s gas storage facilities now at just over 90 per cent capacity, Robert Habeck, the economy minister, said. Germany now stands “a good chance” of getting through the winter, he added.
Germany is ahead of its goal to have the subterranean stores 95 per cent full by the start of November. — Guardian