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.
Putin said the partial military mobilisation of its 2 million-strong military reserves was to defend Russia and its territories, claiming the West did not want peace in Ukraine.
Putin’s speech was a worrying escalation and the threats he made in it must be taken seriously, British foreign office minister Gillian Keegan told Sky News.
Putin said he had signed a decree on a partial mobilisation. The mobilisation, which affects anyone who has served as a professional soldier in Russia rather than a conscript, begins immediately
“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.
Russia’s rouble fell and global oil prices surged after Putin’s comments. The war has already caused a spike in fuel and food prices around the world.
Putin restated his aim was to “liberate” east Ukraine’s Donbas industrial heartland region and that most people in the region did not want to return to what he called the “yoke” of Ukraine.
Russia already considers Luhansk and Donetsk, which together make up the Donbas region Moscow partially occupied in 2014, to be independent states. Ukraine and the West consider all parts of Ukraine held by Russian forces to be illegally occupied.
Russia now holds about 60 per cent of Donetsk and had captured nearly all of Luhansk by July after slow advances during months of intense fighting.
Those gains are now under threat after Russian forces were driven from neighbouring Kharkiv province this month, losing control of their main supply lines for much of the Donetsk and Luhansk front lines.
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
Ahead of Putin’s speech, in an apparently coordinated move on Tuesday, Moscow-installed leaders in occupied areas of four Ukrainian regions announced plans to hold referendums on joining Russia in coming days.
Warns West over nuclear blackmail
The blunt warning from Russia’s paramount leader, whose country has more nuclear warheads than even the United States, marks the biggest escalation of the war in Ukraine since Moscow’s 24 February invasion.
Putin accused the West of plotting to destroy Russia and gave his explicit support to referendums that will be held in swathes of Ukraine controlled by Russian troops, the first step to formal annexation of a chunk of Ukraine the size of Hungary.
The war, which has triggered the worst confrontation with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, has killed tens of thousands and sent an inflationary wave crashing through the global economy.
Putin said he had signed a decree on a partial mobilisation. The mobilisation, which affects anyone who has served as a professional soldier in Russia rather than a conscript, begins immediately.
After pro-Russian officials in four areas of Ukraine controlled by Russian soldiers asked for referendums on joining Russia a day earlier, Putin said Moscow did not have the moral right to give them up to “executioners”.
Russia, Putin said, would support the decisions of the people of the Donbas and the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine. That paves the way for the formal annexation of about 15 per cent of Ukrainian territory.
Putin said his aim was to “liberate” east Ukraine’s Donbas region, and that most people living in regions under Russian control did not want to be ruled by Kyiv anymore.