Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking from a wood-paneled operating room, issued another stern warning to the West on Wednesday after his country’s military suffered a series of embarrassing setbacks in Ukraine.
Putin announced a partial mobilization of reservists that could increase available troop numbers by as much as 300,000 and a thinly veiled threat of Moscow’s willingness to use nuclear weapons.
Here’s a look at the key conclusions from that speech and the West’s response to it.
WHY DID PUTIN MAKE THE THREATS NOW?
Putin’s military appeal and possible nuclear threat come days after the Ukrainian military launched a surprising counter-offensive to retake territory around its second-largest city, Kharkov, in the east.
“I would like to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction … and when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,” Putin said. . in the televised speech, adding with a drowsy look at the camera, “It’s not a bluff.”
But his seven-minute speech was also broadcast as Russia prepares to hold referendums in the Ukrainian regions it now occupies, including areas taken over by Moscow-backed separatist forces after fighting broke out in 2014. already dismissed as illegal by Ukraine and its western allies.
WEST BELIEVES TO STAY THE COURSE
President Joe Biden led Western condemnation of Putin’s remarks at the United Nations General Assembly, arguing that Moscow’s aggression must be met with continued determination by Western countries to support Ukraine.
“We will stand in solidarity with Russian aggression. Period,” he said, denouncing Moscow’s plans to hold “mock referendums” in Ukraine, as well as Putin’s “overt nuclear threats against Europe.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg echoed Biden’s theme. “This is a further escalation in Putin’s war. The international community must condemn this flagrant violation of international law and step up support for Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said in a tweet.
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s head of foreign policy, added: “The threat of nuclear weapons is unacceptable and a real threat to everyone… World peace is in danger.”
NO CHANGE IN UKRAINE TARGETS
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country remains committed to retaking all of its sovereign territory, and described Putin’s comments as a demonstration of Russia’s setbacks on the battlefield.
“We will act step by step in accordance with our plans. I am sure we will liberate our territory,” Zelenskyy said in a TV interview with the German newspaper Bild.
A spokesman for Zelenskyy called the Russian mobilization a “great tragedy” for the Russian people. In a statement to The The New Zealand Times, Sergii Nikiforov said conscripts sent to the front lines in Ukraine would suffer a similar fate to the ill-prepared Russian troops repulsed in their attack on Kiev in the early days of the war.
“This is a recognition of the inability of the Russian professional army, which has failed in all its tasks,” Nikiforov said.
HOW WILL RUSSIANS RESPOND?
Despite the Kremlin’s firm grip on the Russian news media, there has been some criticism of the war in Ukraine since the recent withdrawal of troops from Russia.
Small anti-war protests were held in more than 30 Russian cities on Wednesday, according to the monitoring group OVD-Info, which said more than 530 protesters had been arrested, including 200 in St. Petersburg and 150 in Moscow.
Russian political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin argued that Putin’s mobilization will make the Russian military’s shortcomings in the war more personal to many Russians.
“Until recently (Russians participated) with pleasure, sitting on their couch, (watching) TV. And now the war has come to their house,” he told the TNZT. “People will avoid this mobilization in every possible way, bribe their way out of this mobilization, leave the country.”
Russian media reported on Wednesday a run on people buying plane tickets to leave the country, sending ticket prices skyrocketing.
Follow the TNZT’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine