Russian President Vladimir Putin announces the mobilization of Russian army reserves in a televised address as he escalates the war in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced partial mobilization in Russia as the war in Ukraine drags on for nearly seven months and Moscow is losing ground on the battlefield.

Utin’s address to the nation comes a day after the Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold votes on becoming an integral part of Russia. The Kremlin-backed effort to engulf four regions could pave the way for Moscow to escalate the war after Ukrainian successes.

Putin said he signed a decree on partial mobilization to begin on Wednesday.

“We are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only citizens who are currently in reserve are drafted, and most importantly, those who served in the armed forces have some military specialty and relevant experience,” Putin said.

Referendums, which have been expected since the first months of the war, begin on Friday in the Luhansk, Kherson and partially Russian-controlled Zaporizhia and Donetsk regions.

Putin said the partial mobilization decision was “fully proportionate to the threats we face, namely to protect our homeland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity, to ensure the security of our people and the people of the liberated areas.”

Earlier Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed Russian plans to hold referendums in occupied territories in eastern and southern Ukraine as “noise” and thanked Ukraine’s allies for condemning Friday’s scheduled votes.

Four Russian-controlled regions on Tuesday announced plans to start voting this week to become integral parts of Russia, which could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war after Ukrainian successes on the battlefield.

Former President Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chair of Russia’s Security Council chaired by Putin, said referendums annexing regions to Russia itself would make newly drawn borders “irreversible” and allow Moscow to use “any means” to secure them To defend.

In his late-night address, Zelensky said there were many questions about the announcements, but stressed they would not change Ukraine’s commitment to retake areas occupied by Russian forces.

“The situation on the front clearly shows that the initiative belongs to Ukraine,” he said. “Our positions don’t change because of the noise or any announcements anywhere. And we enjoy the full support of our partners.”

The forthcoming votes in the Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhia and Donetsk regions will almost certainly go to Moscow. But they were quickly dismissed as illegitimate by Western leaders, who have backed Kyiv with military and other support that has helped its forces gain momentum on the battlefields to the east and south.

“I thank all friends and partners of Ukraine for today’s principled condemnation of Russia’s attempts to hold new sham referendums,” said Zelenskyy.

In another signal that Russia is embarking on a protracted and potentially intensified conflict, the Kremlin-controlled lower house of parliament on Tuesday voted to tighten laws against desertion, surrender and looting by Russian troops. Lawmakers also voted to introduce possible 10-year prison sentences for soldiers who refuse to fight.

If the law were approved by the House of Lords, as expected, and then signed by Putin, the law would strengthen commanders’ hands against the reported declining morale among soldiers.

In the Russian-held city of Enerhodar, shelling continued around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. Ukrainian energy operator Energoatom said Russian shelling again damaged infrastructure at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, briefly forcing workers to start two diesel generators to provide backup power for cooling pumps for one of the reactors.

Such pumps are essential to avoid a meltdown at a nuclear power plant, even though all six of the plant’s reactors have been shut down. Energoatom said the generators were later shut down when main power was restored.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been a concern for months amid fears shelling could lead to a radiation leak. Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the shelling.

Liz Truss, Britain’s Prime Minister, said Russia would have to pay reparations from its “vast oil and gas reserves” to Ukraine when the conflict was over.

Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, said the referendums were not covered by international law, while Emmanuel Macron, the French President, called them “a tragic parody”.

Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, added: “The United States will never recognize Russia’s claims to supposedly annexed parts of Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s parliament rushed to pass a bill providing for tougher penalties for desertion, refusing to fight and disobeying orders during times of martial law.

That was a clear signal that the Kremlin was considering a general mobilization of its forces. This would allow Moscow to significantly expand conscription and put production on a war base.

The developments followed a highly successful Ukrainian counter-offensive to retake land.

Kremlin figures suggested the expected annexations would raise the prospect of NATO being drawn into the conflict if it didn’t accept Russian territorial gains.

Tatiana Stanovaya, Russia analyst at R.Politik, said: “[This] is an absolutely clear ultimatum from Russia to Ukraine and the West – either Ukraine withdraws or there will be nuclear war.”

Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the pro-Kremlin TV channel RT, wrote: “Today referendum, tomorrow recognition as part of the Russian Federation, the day after tomorrow strikes on Russian territory will turn into a full-fledged war between Ukraine and Russia. Nato and Russia unleash Russia’s hands in every respect.”

The referendums were announced a day after Ukraine said its troops had regained a foothold in Luhansk, the village of Bilohorivka and are preparing to advance across the province. Russian President Vladimir Putin announces the mobilization of Russian army reserves in a televised address as he escalates the war in Ukraine

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