Reservists in Russia’s armed forces are to be mobilised, starting on Wednesday, under a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin as he looks for ways to throw more resources at his troubled invasion of Ukraine.
He warned other states not to attack Russian territory, and alluded to nuclear retribution if someone chose to do so. “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will absolutely use all available means to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff.”
Putin said this as he announced that he would support planned referendums in the occupied territories of Ukraine this week, in which people will be asked to join Russia.
The vote has been panned by the West, as it is being conducted during a military occupation and without outside oversight.
However, if Putin were to be able to report that these areas had voted to become Russian, any attack by Ukraine to free them would fall under his threat of doing anything to protect his country.
“It is in our historical tradition, in the destiny of our people to stop those who seek world domination, who threaten our motherland, our homeland with dismemberment and oppression,” Putin said.
According to Putin, the partial mobilization means that reservists will be drafted. They would be given the same status and pay as the current contracted soldiers and would also receive further military training before being deployed to the front, he assured.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu put a figure of 300,000 on the number of reservists to be called up. In total, there are 25 million reservists in Russia.
By activating the mobilisation, reservists are now under orders to stay in their home town, even though one lawmaker said that, the way he sees it, the important thing is to stay in Russia and not go abroad.
“You can still go on business trips” within Russia, said Andrey Kartapolov.
However, that did not stop one-way flight tickets from Russia to Turkey being sold out within hours of Putin’s announcement, according to data from two Turkish carriers.
The call to mobilization also prompted criticism from Ukraine and further abroad, with many saying it’s a sign that Putin’s gambit is failing.
“All this can only be explained against the background of the fact that the Russian attack on Ukraine has not been successful,” a government spokesperson quoted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as saying in Berlin on Wednesday.
Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said the threat showed Putin’s true colours and urged anyone involved to give up hopes for any “illusory” peace talks in light of the new threat.
And, back in Russia, leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny used a court appearance regarding his rights as a prisoner to slam Putin.
“In an effort to extend his own power, he’s ready to shred a neighbouring country, kill people there and now he’s going to throw a huge number of Russian people into the meat grinder,” said Navalny.
Shoigu put the losses suffered by Russia’s army during its invasion of Ukraine at 5,937 personnel. It is the first time in months that Russia has officially published figures. Independent observers, however, believe Russia’s losses are significantly higher.
Meanwhile, Russia put the number of Ukrainian soldiers killed at more than 60,000. In addition, almost 50,000 were wounded, bringing the total “losses” to more than 100,000, Shoigu said.