What does Putin’s ‘partial’ mobilisation mean for Ukraine war?
But one security expert has described the new wave of Russian conscripts as just extra “cannon fodder’ for a war machine already suffering major defeats by Ukraine.
Putin announced a partial mobilisation of reservists that could raise available troop numbers by up to 300,000 and delivered a thinly-veiled threat of Moscow’s willingness to use nuclear weapons.
Putin’s seven-minute address was also broadcast as Russia prepares to hold referendums in Ukrainian regions it now occupies, including areas taken over by Moscow-backed separatist forces after fighting broke out in 2014.
Here’s a look at what it means for Russia and how it could impact the six-month old war.
Who are the Russians affected by the mobilisation?
The “partial mobilisation” announced by Putin also appears to lean on parts of the Russian population that would already have experienced significant pressure to sign up for Russia’s faltering war effort.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on state television that some 300,000 reservists would be available.
“These are not some people who have never heard of the army,” he said.
“These are those who have served, have a military registration specialty, have had military experience.”
The military is looking for reservists who have done specialist jobs in the army in the past, such as tank drivers, sappers and snipers.
The mobilisation is limited, perhaps so as not to alienate public opinion and perhaps to leave room for further moves down the road.
Shoigu claims that “those who have served and have a military specialty are almost 25 million”.
The Russian armed forces have suffered devastating losses since the war began in February, with US figures putting deaths and casualties at 75,000.
What impact on the war will extra recruits have?
International security expert Professor John Blaxland told Today this morning the mobilisation is in fact a “double edged sword” for the Russian leader.
“He has been effectively promising for the last seven months that this special military operation could be done with the professional military and he didn’t have to draw on this,” Blaxland said.
“This is politically toxic for Vladimir Putin but it also panders to the nationalist war-mongers. What could go wrong?”
He also questioned the war-readiness of the reservists.
“These are people who are unfit, untrained. They might have done some basic training a long time ago, but essentially we are talking about cannon fodder.”
Blaxland said both Putin’s renewed rhetoric about nuclear weapons, and the West’s condemnation, would not likely have a major effect on the conflict compared to support on the ground.
What is the reaction in Russia?
Hundreds of people have been arrested as anti-war protests sweep Russia following the mobilisation order.
Anti-war protests were held in 37 Russian cities on Wednesday, including St Petersburg and Moscow, according to the monitoring group OVD-Info, which said more than 800 protesters were arrested.
Russian political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin argued that Putin’s mobilisation will make the Russian military’s failings in the war more personal to many Russians.
“Until recently (Russians participated) with pleasure, sitting on their couches, (watching) TV. And now the war has come into their home,” he told the AP.
“People will evade this mobilization in every possible way, bribe their way out of this mobilisation, leave the country.”
And large numbers of Russians rushed to book one-way tickets out of the country while they still could on Wednesday.
Flights filled up quickly and the prices of tickets for remaining connections sky-rocketed, apparently driven by fears that Russia’s borders could soon close or of a broader call-up that might send many Russian men of fighting age to the war’s front lines.
What does Ukraine think?
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country remains committed to recapturing all of its sovereign territory, describing Putin’s remarks as demonstration of Russia’s battlefield setbacks.
“We will act in accordance with our plans, step by step. I am certain we will liberate our territory,” Zelenskyy said in a TV interview with the German newspaper Bild.
A spokesperson for Zelenskyy called the Russian mobilisation a “big tragedy” for the Russian people.
They said conscripts sent to the front line in Ukraine would face a similar fate as the ill-prepared Russian forces who were repelled in their attack on Kyiv in the first days of the war.
How is Australia and the rest of the world responding?
Foreign Minister Penny Wong issued a blunt condemnation of Putin’s overnight address to his country.
She said Putin’s allusions to using nuclear weapons were “unthinkable” and irresponsible”.
“His claims of defending Russia’s territorial integrity are untrue,” Wong said from a United Nations meeting in New York.
“No sham referendum will make them true.
“Russia alone is responsible for this illegal and immoral war.”
US President Joe Biden said that Moscow’s aggression should be met with continued resolve by Western nations to support Ukraine.
“We will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression. Period,” he said, denouncing Moscow’s plans to hold “sham” 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 blatant violation of international law and step up support for Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said in a tweet.
China has urged Russia and Ukraine to hold a ceasefire after Putin announced the mobilisation.
“We call on the relevant parties to realise a ceasefire through dialogue and consultation, and find a solution that accommodates the legitimate security concerns of all parties as soon as possible,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told a regular briefing on Wednesday.
– Reported with Associated Press, CNN
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