Russian President Vladimir Putin is calling in thousands of additional troops to fight in Ukraine after setbacks on the battlefield. Mr Putin said partial mobilization was necessary to ensure Russian territorial integrity.
According to the Russian human rights organisation, OVD-Info, protests erupted in Russia following the announcement, in which more than 750 people were arrested. The declaration applies to 300,000 military reservists.
They make up a fraction of the approximately 25 million Russian reservists – people who have performed their mandatory military service.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said it showed Mr Putin wanted to douse Ukraine in blood – including his own soldiers.
The mobilization is the first since World War II, and Ukraine has made gains by keeping the Kremlin on the back in a swift counter-offensive this month.
Ukrainian forces have recaptured major towns and villages in the northern Kharkiv region and made slow, but still significant progress in the southern Kherson region. However, Russia still holds about a fifth of the country.
The decree is brief on the details. It doesn’t say anything about numbers or any exceptions, such as not hiring students or hiring.
Instead, it is left to the regional heads to decide how to meet the quota. In theory, the trap could be cast far more widely than the Kremlin specified.
Russian officials said it would announce “very soon” those who would be exempted from its partial mobilization.
The call-up falls short of full enlistment, a move that would have risked turning the public which has hitherto been in favor of the struggle against it.
In his televised address, Mr Putin also issued a thinly veiled threat that he might use nuclear weapons.
He said the West was engaging in “nuclear blackmail” and that Moscow had “too many weapons to respond”.
“When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all our means to protect Russia and our people. This is not a hoax,” he said.
US President Joe Biden condemned Mr Putin’s actions and said “a nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought.”
He said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “shamelessly violated” the basic principles of being a member of the United Nations.
The announcement of partial mobilization by Mr. Putin was immediately condemned by allies of Ukraine.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Root called the mobilization a “sign of terror”, while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called it an “act of desperation”.
Mr Putin’s address has raised fears that some men of fighting age will not be allowed to leave Russia, even though Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the call-up would be limited to those with war experience.
A Russian man told the BBC that the move meant “there is no guarantee that martial law will not be declared at some point in the future. And then it will be virtually impossible for anyone to do anything”.
It has also got a strong reaction on social media. One Twitter user wrote: “I’m not going to war, go screw yourself. Not only will I surrender immediately, I’ll also show you the way to the Kremlin.”
In the video shared on social media, protests are being seen in many places including the capital Moscow.
Signs of public discontent have become increasingly rare in Russia. The conflict in Ukraine is still referred to in Russian state media as a “special military operation”, with the word “war” banned.
Flights from Russia sold out rapidly after the announcement. Direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul in Turkey and Yerevan in Armenia have been sold out for the next few days. Both destinations allow Russians to enter without a visa.
However, it is not possible to confirm when these flights were sold.
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