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Putin is mobilizing hundreds of thousands of Russian reservists to fight in Ukraine

In this image made from video released by the Russian Presidential Press Service, Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation in Moscow, Russia, Sept. 21, 2022.
In this image made from video released by the Russian Presidential Press Service, Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation in Moscow, Russia, Sept. 21, 2022.

Updated September 21, 2022 at 6:03 PM ET

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a "partial mobilization" of Russia's armed forces on Wednesday morning — signing a decree that will send Russians who have gone through military training to join the fight in Ukraine while stopping short of an all-out draft.

"Only those citizens will be drafted to military service who are currently in the reserve and first of all those who have served in the army, who have certain professions and have necessary experience," will be recruited for the campaign, said Putin in a televised address to the nation.

The announcement came just a day after some Russian-controlled areas in Ukraine announced plans for referendums on becoming part of Russia. The choreographed series of events was reminiscent of the Russian leader's announcement to send tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February.

Putin's Wednesday announcement also came as his country has struggled to replenish its fighting force in Ukraine and suffered setbacks on the battlefield amid a surging Ukrainian counteroffensive.

In a separate television interview, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia would immediately call up 300,000 reservists to "hold the line at the front" in Ukraine.

Addressing world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday morning, President Biden said that "Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations charter" by invading Ukraine.

"Putin claims he had to act because Russia was threatened," the president said. "No one threatened Russia. And no one other than Russia sought conflict."

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink tweetedthat Russia is showing "signs of weakness" and "failure" for escalating the war with Ukraine and vowed, "The United States will never recognize Russia's claim to purportedly annexed Ukrainian territory, and we will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes."

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who delivered remarks to the General Assembly via video late Wednesday afternoon, urged punishment for Russia and said, "We can return the Ukrainian flag to our entire territory. We can do it with the force of arms. But we need time."

In his address, Putin said the larger force was necessary as Ukraine continued to receive heavy weaponry from a "collective West" intent on "weakening, isolating, and destroying Russia."

The Russian leader also insisted Russia had a moral obligation to protect civilians in partially Russian-occupied portions of Ukraine as they held a series of "referendums" aimed at joining the Russian Federation later this week.

Putin also accused Western powers of providing Ukraine with long-range weapon systems that can strike deep into Russian territory — and again accused Ukraine and its allies of menacing Russia with nuclear threats. Putin warned Russia and its people would use "all available means" in their defense — noting Russia had its own capable nuclear arsenal. "This is no bluff," Putin said.

"Those who are blackmailing us with nuclear weapons should know – the rose winds can change and blow in their direction."

The defense minister also provided new figures on Russian casualties — saying 5,937 Russian soldiers had died fighting in Ukraine. Western estimates run much higher.

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Charles Maynes
[Copyright 2024 NPR]