Updated: Wed, 21 Sep 2022 01:13 PM IST
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered partial mobilisation in Russia as the war in Ukraine reaches nearly seven months. This will be Russia's first military mobilisation after World War 2. The Russian president has also warned the West that if it continued what he called its "nuclear blackmail", 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," Putin said in a televised address to the nation. Putin said he had signed a decree on a partial mobilisation, which significantly escalates the conflict. Putin said his aim was to "liberate" east Ukraine's Donbas region, and that most people in the regions under Russian control did not want to be ruled by Kyiv.
Putin's address to the nation comes a day after Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold votes on becoming integral parts of Russia.
“We are talking about partial mobilisation, 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,” Putin stressed further.
The blunt warning from Russia's paramount leader, whose country has more nuclear warheads than even the United States, marks the biggest escalation of the war since Moscow's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine and was accompanied by a decision to call up 300,000 extra reservists.
He made the comments after accusing the West of "nuclear blackmail", saying that top government officials in several unnamed "leading" NATO countries had spoken of potentially using nuclear weapons against Russia. He also accused the West of risking "nuclear catastrophe," by allowing Ukraine to shell the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant which is under Russian control, something Kyiv has denied.
Giving his explicit support to referendums that will be held in the coming days in swathes of Ukraine controlled by Russian troops -- the first step to the formal annexation of a chunk of Ukraine the size of Hungary -- Putin said the West had been plotting to destroy Russia.
"In its aggressive anti-Russian policy, the West has crossed every line," Putin said, adding, "Those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can change in their direction".
The war, which has triggered the worst confrontation with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, has killed tens of thousands and sent an inflationary wave crashing through the global economy. Russia's nuclear doctrine allows the use of such weapons if weapons of mass destruction are used against it or if or if the Russian state faces an existential threat from conventional weapons.
Putin said he had also signed a decree on partial mobilisation. The mobilisation, which affects anyone who has served as a professional soldier in Russia rather than a conscript, begins immediately.
Sergei Shoigu, Russia's defence minister, said he expected 300,000 people to be called up out of the country's vast reserves of around 25 million people. After pro-Russian officials in four areas of Ukraine controlled by Russian soldiers asked for referendums on joining Russia a day earlier, Putin said Moscow did not have the moral right to give them up to "executioners."
(With Agencies Inputs)