In a morning address to the nation, Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilisation” of the Russian military and threatened the use of nuclear forces over Ukraine.
Speaking in his first nationwide address since he launched his “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, President Putin accused the west of “nuclear blackmail”.
“I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and more modern than those of NATO countries,” Putin said, adding “when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal”.
“This is not a bluff,” he warned.
Flights departing Moscow and St. Petersburg today. The @AP is reporting international flights departing Russia have either sold out or skyrocketed in price after Putin announced a mobilization of reservists.
Search SVO, VKO, DME for Moscow airports and LED for St. Petersburg. pic.twitter.com/LV2PrkwPD9
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) September 21, 2022
A senior Ukrainian military intelligence general told ITV News that Ukraine believes Putin is seriously considering nuclear war.
“It is possible Russia will use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. They will try to stop our offensive activity and to destroy our state,” Vadym Skibitskyi, Deputy Head of Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence told ITV News.
“This is a threat for other countries. The blast of a tactical nuclear weapon will have an impact not only in Ukraine but the Black Sea region,” Skibitskyi said, adding that the fallout from use of a nuclear weapon could affect countries including Poland, Turkey and Bulgaria
“We remember the history of Chernobyl. It is possible that we will have another catastrophe in our territory, in eastern Europe.”
In his speech, the president also backed a plan to annex large swathes of Ukrainian territory, currently occupied by Russia, which are roughly the size of Hungary.
He said that if the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south vote to “join” Russia in referenda planned for 23-27 September, Russia would consider them to be sovereign territory. In this case, Mr Putin indicated he would use full force to defend them.
The votes have been widely condemned by the west as a “sham” with the UK and US saying they will never recognise Russia’s claims. When he launched Russia’s “special military operation “on February 24, President Putin said it was “not our plan to occupy Ukrainian territory”.
At the same time as announcing annexation plans and threatening nuclear force, the Russian president also said he had signed a decree ordering the “partial mobilisation” of the Russian military.
The order comes into force from today and is the first Russian military mobilisation since World War Two. Following Putin’s speech, Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu said Russia would start conscripting 300,000 reservists into the army.
The announcement triggered panic among some Russians. Tickets to countries which still have direct flights with Russia reportedly sold out as people scrambled to leave the country. There are no available flights listed in the next two days from Moscow to Istanbul in Turkey, nor Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.
Speaking this morning, Defence Minister Shoigu said Russia has the capacity to draw on 25 million people who have military experience and combat expertise but, for now, would be drawing on 300,000 reservists, “1.1% of the total mobilisation resource”.
“This is not about some people who’ve never seen or heard about the army. This is about those who first of all served in the army and, secondly, have military-occupational expertise needed today in the Armed Forces and combat experience,” Defence Minister Shoigu said, stressing that university students would not be called up.
Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence is preparing for some of the Russians called up to be deployed in the country over the coming months.
“Our assessment is that a new offensive is possible during winter and spring,” Skibitskyi said. “This is why Russia needs new units. The main goal of Russia is the occupation of all of Ukraine’s territory.”
Russia already operates national service, a peacetime conscription where all men aged 18-27, with exceptions for health reasons or education, complete a 12-month draft.
Chaos: Reports that men are bring blocked from leaving Russia’s land borders with Georgia and Finland, while women are allowed to pass.
● Social media accounts say Russian Railways and airlines are refusing to sell tickets to men 18-65 years of age
— Jason Corcoran (@jason_corcoran) September 21, 2022
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