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While most Americans may have moved on from the war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has just issued a chilling warning designed to get their attention, as well as the attention of NATO leaders who continue to assist Kyiv with arms and ammunition.
Following a Ukrainian counteroffensive to retake lost ground using weapons supplied mostly by the United States, Putin said in a speech directed to Russians but also a global audience that he is redoubling his efforts to pacify his neighbor.
Putin has announced a “partial mobilization” of up to 300,000 more troops, while also warning that he is prepared to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine if need be.
In a prerecorded message, the Russian president charged that the West “wants to destroy our country,” adding that NATO countries had tried to “turn Ukraine’s people into cannon fodder,” according to CNBC.
Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the threat of a nuclear response and ordered Russian reservists to mobilize in a major escalation of the war in Ukraine https://t.co/Tv8fFl120j
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) September 21, 2022
The outlet continued:
Putin said “mobilization events” would begin Wednesday without providing further details, aside from saying he had ordered an increase in funding to boost Russia’s weapons production, having committed (and lost) a large amount of weaponry during the conflict, which began in late February.
A partial mobilization is a hazy concept, but it could mean that Russian businesses and citizens have to contribute more to the war effort. Russia has not yet declared war on Ukraine, despite having invaded in February, and it calls its invasion a “special military operation.”
Putin confirmed that military reservists would be called up into active service, but insisted a wider conscription of Russian men of fighting age was not taking place.
“I reiterate, we are talking about partial mobilization, 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,” he said according to an Associated Press translation.
“Conscripts will obligatorily go through additional military training based on the experience of the special military operation before departing to the units,” he added.
Western military officials and experts took Putin’s message as an escalatory address aimed at NATO members especially, who he accused of engaging in nuclear blackmail against Russia. He also noted that Russia has “lots of weapons to reply” to what he called threats from the West, and added that he was not bluffing.
“Putin has alluded to Russia’s nuclear weaponry at various points during the conflict with Ukraine but there are doubts over whether Moscow would actually resort to deploying such a weapon, with analysts saying it could be tantamount to starting a third world war,” CNBC added.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry called on all parties to find some way to express their security concerns through dialogue, while British Foreign Office Minister Gillian Keegan told Sky News that Putin’s statement shouldn’t be taken with a grain of salt.
“Clearly it’s something that we should take very seriously because, you know, we’re not in control — I’m not sure he’s in control either, really. This is obviously an escalation,” she said.
Meanwhile, according to analysts with Forward Observer, a private intelligence firm, “Russian proxy governments in occupied territories in Ukraine announced they will hold referendums to seek formal annexation by Russia” — a development that is roundly opposed by Ukraine.
The report continued:
The international community has largely denounced the referendums as an illegal land grab violating Ukraine’s constitution and international law, with the EU promising to hold those involved accountable and implement additional restrictive measures. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinsky promised continued efforts to liberate the territories, calling the announced referendum an unacceptable “sham” that proves Putin’s “fear of defeat.” Voting for the referendums is scheduled to begin on Friday.
In an analyst comment accompanying the report, Forward Observer noted: “Ukrainian focus are likely to use claims of a successful referendum to increase counterattacks and possibly launch a new assault on the sovereignty of the Russian Federation. Russia will also use this to characterize ongoing material support to Ukraine as an act of war in an attempt to stalemate NATO with the threat of a global conflict.