Kyiv, Sept 21 (Reuters/GNA) – President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered Russia’s first mobilisation since World War Two, warning 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 will use all available means to protect our people – this is not a bluff,” Putin said in a televised address to the nation, adding Russia had “lots of weapons to reply”.
Russia’s defence minister said the partial mobilisation will see 300,000 reservists called and up would apply to those with previous military experience.
Putin’s partial mobilisation significantly escalates the conflict over Ukraine and comes as Russia battles a Ukrainian counter-offensive that has forced its troops to retreat and surrender some occupied territory.
“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,” British foreign office minister Gillian Keegan told Sky News.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters Russia’s mobilisation was a predictable step that would prove extremely unpopular and underscored that the war was not going according to Moscow’s plan.
Putin said the partial military mobilisation of its 2 million-strong military reservists was to defend Russia and its territories, arguing the West did not want peace in Ukraine.
He said Washington, London, Brussels were pushing Kyiv to “transfer military operations to our territory” with the aim of the “complete plunder our country”.
Ukraine’s military has sporadically struck targets inside Russia throughout the conflict, using long-range weapons supplied by the West.