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Russia-Ukraine live updates: Putin orders partial mobilization, issues nuclear threat

By Amanda Caroline  •  September 21, 2022  •  30

It's the first mobilization of reservists in Russia since World War II.


Russian President Vladimir Putin's "special military operation" into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered "stiff resistance," according to U.S. officials.

The Russian military has since launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine's disputed Donbas region, capturing the strategic port city of Mariupol and securing a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

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Putin orders partial military mobilization, issues nuclear threat

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a partial mobilization of reservists in Russia, in an apparent admission that his war in neighboring Ukraine isn't going according to plan.

In a seven-minute televised address to the nation that aired on Wednesday morning, Putin announced the start of the mobilization -- the first in Russia since World War II. The measure is expected to draft more than 300,000 Russian citizens with military experience, according to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

The move comes as Moscow is poised to annex all the regions it occupies in Ukraine in the coming weeks, with plans to hold sham referendums this weekend to legitimize its actions. By declaring those areas officially Russian territory, Putin is also threatening that any continued efforts by Ukraine to retake them will be seen as a direct attack on Russia. In his speech Wednesday, the Russian leader raised the specter of using nuclear weapons if Ukraine continues to try to liberate the occupied regions.

"In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity to our country, for the protection of Russia and our people, we of course will use all means in our possession," Putin said. "This is not a bluff."

"Those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can turn in their direction," he added.

It's an attempt to regain the initiative after disastrous setbacks in Russia's war against Ukraine.

Russia has been suffering severe manpower shortages in Ukraine after months of heavy losses, mainly because the Kremlin has pretended it is fighting not a war but a "special military operation." That, in part, allowed Ukraine's spectacular counteroffensive in the country's northeast two weeks ago, which led to the collapse of Russia's frontline there.

Military experts and Russian commentators themselves had acknowledged that without a mobilization, Moscow is not capable of anymore offensive operations in Ukraine and in the longterm might well be unable to even hold the territory it has already taken.

Putin has balked at ordering a mobilization, until now, because of the huge political risks it carries for him at home. Russians have proved relatively supportive of the war while they have not been ordered to fight it, but this carries much bigger risks now of domestic unrest. It will bring up dangerous memories of the Soviet disaster in Afghanistan and Chechnya.

Yet Putin has clearly decided he must take the risk, with losing the war in Ukraine seen as an existential danger to his regime.

The mobilization order has profound implications for not just Russia and Ukraine, but also for Europe and the United States. It means Putin is expanding the war in Ukraine even further, ready to throw hundreds of thousands more people into it -- making the fight harder again for Ukraine, while also raising the threat of nuclear strikes on it. And at home, Putin is going to enter uncharted waters.