Vladimir Putin announced, on Wednesday morning, partial mobilization in Russia and threatened nuclear weapons again. At the same time, he said that “peaceful conditions for the organization of referendums” will be ensured in the occupied areas. The occupation administrations of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye have announced that they are holding referendums on joining Russia.
The popular consultations will start on Friday, the day that marks seven months of war in Ukraine. They will end on September 27. Moscow supports the initiative, but does not control any of these regions entirely and has suffered painful defeats on the battlefield in recent weeks. In the last message posted on social networks, Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that the army continues to advance, with the situation on the front line indicating that the initiative belongs to Ukraine.
Putin said the West aimed to destroy Russia and tried to turn the people of Ukraine into cannon fodder. Our goal is to liberate Donbas, he said. At the same time, Putin again threatened with nuclear weapons.
“It is necessary to take an urgent decision to protect our people in the liberated lands. That is why we asked the Ministry of Defense to agree to the partial mobilization. The decree has already been signed, the partial mobilization starts today. Only those who are currently in the reserve will be enlisted and those who are serving in the military and who have certain military professions. They will receive additional training, given that it is a special operation. All citizens who will be mobilized will have the status of a full armed force. NATO has discussed using nuclear weapons against Russia. We also have new weapons. We will use all means to defend ourselves. The West has blackmailed Russia, but Russia has many weapons to fight back. We will use all the resources we have to defend our people,” the Russian President argued.
“NATO has said that it is possible to use nuclear weapons against Russia, we do not allow such treatments. We have various weapons of destruction and components much more modern than NATO’s. We will use all the means at our disposal. And I’m not bluffing. Russian citizens can be sure that our territorial integrity, our independence will be ensured, we will defend ourselves with all the means at our disposal,” he stressed.
Amid the partial mobilization call, Russian lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bill toughening penalties for desertion and voluntary surrender in wartime. Under the law, Russians now face up to 10 years for desertion and up to 15 years for robbery during the armed conflict, The Moscow Times reports.
In Russia, protests began after the announcement of the partial military mobilization, which was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Law enforcement has already been sent by Putin to arrest the protesters. The most important opponent of the Kremlin, Aleksei Navalnyi, who is in a high-security prison, criticized Russia’s new offensive in Ukraine, calling it a “failed criminal war”, according to AFP and Reuters.
Protest were announced in 43 Russian cities, including in Siberia.
Anti-war protests have begun in Siberia.
— WhereisRussiaToday (@WhereisRussia) September 21, 2022
Russian law enforcement began arresting protesters in Yekaterinburg.
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?: SOTA pic.twitter.com/ABwbkbAYsv
— SOTA (@Sota_Vision) September 21, 2022
— WhereisRussiaToday (@WhereisRussia) September 21, 2022
Moscow’s prosecutor’s office warned on Wednesday that people participating in “illegal” rallies will be punished according to current Russian law, Russian news agency TASS reports.
On the website Change.org, a petition was published against the mobilization decreed, on Wednesday, by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, which has already collected almost 250,000 signatures, reports the Meduza news portal. “We, the citizens of Russia, women and men, oppose general mobilization. President Vladimir Putin does not have and cannot have a legal basis and well-founded reasons to decree (mobilization, n.r.). In the current situation of uncertainty, we are not prepared to expose the men of our country – brothers, sons, husbands, fathers and grandfathers – to a moral or physical danger”, the text of the petition states.
The Russian anti-war movement Vesna also called for protests in cities across Russia. “You don’t have to die for Putin,” read the message on social media.
Shoigu: It is about 300,000 reservists
The partial mobilization of the Russian army, announced this morning by Vladimir Putin, will only apply to Russian citizens who have “military experience”, said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, quoted by Sky News. In total, it is about 300,000 reservists, said Shoigu. The Russian Defense Minister added that these reservists “will go through a military training program before being sent” (to Ukraine). Partial mobilization will not take into account students or ex-recruits of the Russian army (who completed the mandatory military service). Shoigu added that, at the moment, Russia is fighting “not only with Ukraine, but with the entire West.”
Russians google “how to escape russia” and “how to escape the army”
Awaiting Vladimir Putin’s address to the nation, scheduled for Tuesday evening at 8pm but postponed until Wednesday, Russians have been looking for information on how to leave the country and avoid being caught in the event of a general mobilization .
Google Russia searches for phrases such as “mobilization”, “how to leave Russia”, “how to leave Russia 2022”, “Putin’s address”, “how to get rid of the army” exploded.
Meanwhile, Russian airlines have been banned from selling tickets to Russian men between the ages of 18 and 65. Only those who present a dispensation from the Ministry of Defense. The website of Russian Railways repeatedly crashes due to the large number of requests. Hundreds of thousands of men want to buy tickets to flee their villages. Those who have more money, fly from Russia to countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Thailand to stay there during the mobilization period.
?Les compagnies aériennes ont reçu l'ordre de ne plus vendre de billets aux hommes russes de 18-65 ans à moins qu'ils possèdent un laisser-passer délivré par le ministère de la défense. https://t.co/U78e1ptzTc
— Emmanuel Grynszpan (@EmGryn) September 21, 2022
At the same time, Sky News notes that the price of plane tickets departing from Moscow in the following days has increased, others have completely sold out after Vladimir Putin’s announcement. Turkish Airlines flights to cities such as Istanbul and Belgrade from Moscow are among the most sought after. At around midnight on Tuesday evening, defense analyst Konrad Muzyka shared a screenshot showing that flights for today cost 80,000 rubles, which is just under £1,200. The Moscow Times writes that plane tickets to Turkey, Georgia and Armenia were no longer available for sale a few minutes after the announcement made by Vladimir Putin.
— Konrad Muzyka – Rochan Consulting (@konrad_muzyka) September 21, 2022
Queues of cars also formed at Russia’s border with Finland as more Russian citizens tried to leave the country.
Images of a queue of cars said to stretch for 35 kilometers have been published by a freelance journalist who says the border crossing has started to get crowded after Vladimir Putin’s announcement.
#Breaking: just in – The traffic jam at the border with #Russia/#Finland has pilled up to 35KM and is rising by the hour, it is the only border who is still open for Russian civilians with shengen visas, after #Putin announced he will send 300.000 new troops to #Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/EOJ1346qDO
— Sotiri Dimpinoudis (@sotiridi) September 21, 2022
Ukraine: Russia’s mobilization, predictable
Russia’s mobilization was a predictable step that will prove extremely unpopular with the population, Ukrainian officials said this morning, according to Sky News. Mihailo Podoliak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, said the move underscores the fact that the war is not going according to Moscow’s plan. Podoliak added that Vladimir Putin is clearly trying to shift the blame for starting an “unprovoked war” with Ukraine onto the West.
Biden on nuclear threats: “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t”
Three days ago, before the new threats made by Putin, US President Joe Biden told an interview that any response will depend ‘on the extent of what they do’ in Ukraine. He urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to not use tactical nuclear or chemical weapons after a series of military losses in Ukraine.
Asked by an American reporter with the show 60 Minutes on US network CBS what he would say to Putin if he considered using such weapons, Biden said: “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. It would change the face of war unlike anything since World War II.”
U.S. official: Russia Has Failed to Achieve Strategic Objectives
The bottom line of the whole Russian invasion of Ukraine is that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has failed to achieve any of his strategic objectives in launching the brutal and unprovoked attack, a senior defense official said on background on Tuesday.
Putin launched the attack on his peaceful neighbor on February 24, and aimed a lightning-fast attack on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv with the idea of removing Ukraine’s leadership and installing a puppet regime.
It failed, and the Russians withdrew from the region near the capital and moved troops to the east. “On September 1, … President Putin called for the entirety of Donetsk province to be under Russian controlled by September 15,” the official said. “But Putin’s forces clearly have failed to deliver.”
At the same time, Ukrainian forces launched a counteroffensive against the region north and east of its second-city of Kharkiv. That offensive has been successful, with Ukrainian troops re-taking an area the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, the official said.
“The Russian military is having a tough time recruiting personnel to fight in the misguided war on Ukraine. The Ukrainian military has caused significant casualties among the Russian forces invading the country and “we’re seeing the Kremlin increasingly straining to find new recruits to fill out their thin ranks, and the Russians are performing so poorly that the news from Kharkiv province has inspired many Russian volunteers to refuse combat,” the official said.
President Iohannis: Romania strongly condemns Putin’s announcement
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis reacted to the announcement of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, who decreed the mobilization of reservists for the war in Ukraine. In a message published on Twitter, Iohannis strongly condemns Putin’s statements and the “escalation of the illegal war”.
Romania?? strongly condemns President Putin's announcement about Russia's next steps towards further escalation of its illegal war against Ukraine??. Romania reiterates its call for RU to stop immediately its aggression against UA and to fully withdraw all its armed forces.
— Klaus Iohannis (@KlausIohannis) September 21, 2022
Romanian PM: We have taken note with concern, we hope that the situation does not escalate
Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă declared, on Wednesday, that he took note with concern of Vladimir Putin’s statements this morning and emphasized that Romania maintains its balanced attitude and will continue to calmly analyze the situation.
“Today is the International Day of Peace and, instead of celebrating it properly, unfortunately this morning we noted the statements of President Putin, we noted with concern the partial mobilization of the army of the Russian Federation and the deployment of the so-called referendums in Donbas, Kherson and Zaporizhia. We maintain our balanced attitude, we will continue to calmly analyze the evolution of the situation with NATO allies and partners from the European Union. I express the hope that the situation in the conflict zone will not escalate,” the prime minister said on Wednesday Nicolae Ciucă, at the beginning of the Government meeting.