Officials said partial deployment of 3,00,000 ‘reservist’ (reserved soldiers) has been planned.
Putin, in a televised address to the country, told the West in a warning tone that Russia would do everything possible to defend its region and that it was not “blatant rhetoric”. The president said he had signed the order and the process would begin on Wednesday.
Reservist is a person who is a member of ‘Military Reserve Force’. It is a civilian who is given military training and can be posted anywhere if needed. It does not provide services during peace time.
Putin said the expanded border line, continued shelling by Ukrainian forces along the Russian border and attacks on liberated areas required the withdrawal of troops from the reserve.
His speech came just a day before the Russian-occupied territories of southern and eastern Ukraine announced that they would hold referendums between 23 and 27 September to become an integral part of Russia.
Soon after Putin’s address, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that 300,000 people would be called for a partial deployment. “Three lakh reserve troops will be called in,” he told Russia-24 TV.
US Ambassador to Ukraine Brigitte Brink called Putin’s announcement a sign of “weakness”. He tweeted that sending more troops with false referendums is a sign of weakness and Russian failure.
He said that the US will never recognize Russian claims on Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia by force and that the US will always stand by Ukraine, as long as it takes.
British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said Putin’s decision to mobilize troops showed his offensive was failing. Wallace said in a statement that Putin and his defense minister sent thousands of their civilians to death who were neither properly equipped nor had the right leadership.
Putin alleged in his speech that the West was trying to weaken, divide and ultimately destroy Russia. He said “they are now openly saying that in 1991 they succeeded in splitting the Soviet Union and now it is time to do the same with Russia which should be divided into several regions….”
He accused the Ukrainian government of bringing in foreign mercenaries and nationalists, military units trained according to ‘NATO’ standards, and taking orders from Western advisers. He said that today Russian troops are fighting along a border line of more than 1,000 kilometers and they are fighting not only against neo-Nazi units but against the entire military machinery of the West.
Putin’s statement came in the middle of a session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, in which Russia has been warned about the referendum plan.
The Russian president accused Western countries of “nuclear blackmailing”, as well as referred to “statements by top representatives of NATO countries about the possibility of using nuclear weapons of mass destruction against Russia”.
Putin said, “I want to remind those who make such statements about Russia that our country also has many means of destruction that are more modern than NATO countries. When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all means available to us to defend Russia and our people.
Putin said, “We are talking about only partial deployment, such citizens who are in reserve will be compulsorily deployed.” Even among those who have previously served in the armed forces, they have experience and skills, they will come.
The Russian Defense Minister said that so far 5,937 Russian soldiers have been killed and 61,207 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in military operations with Ukraine. The West estimates that many of its soldiers have died in the war, contrary to what Moscow claims.
“Given the threats we face, the decision to make a partial deployment is justified in order to protect our country, its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Putin said.
Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed plans to hold referendums in Russia’s occupied eastern and southern parts of Ukraine as “blatant nonsense”. At the same time, he thanked allies of Ukraine for condemning this exercise, which is going to start from Friday.
Addressing the nation during the night, Zelensky said that there are many questions about the plan. At the same time, he stressed that he could not change commitments to take back territories occupied by Russian forces.