Putin announces partial mobilization for Russian citizens

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization in Russia on Wednesday as the war in Ukraine reaches nearly seven months and Moscow loses ground on the battlefield.

Putin’s address to the nation comes a day after Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold votes to become integral parts of Russia. Kremlin-backed efforts to gobble up four regions could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war after Ukraine’s successes.

Putin said he signed a decree on partial mobilization, which is due to start on Wednesday.

“We are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be subject to conscription, and above all, those who have served in the armed forces have a certain military specialty and relevant experience “, Putin said.

The referendums, which have been due since the first months of the war, will begin on Friday in the regions of Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk, partly controlled by Russia.

Putin said the decision to partially mobilize was “fully suited to the threats we face, namely to protect our homeland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity, to ensure the safety of our people and the peoples in the liberated territories.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Russian plans to hold referendums in occupied eastern and southern Ukraine “noise” and thanked Ukraine’s allies for condemned the votes which were to begin on Friday.

Four Russian-controlled regions on Tuesday announced plans to start voting this week to become integral parts of Russia, which could pave the way for Moscow to escalate the war after Ukraine’s successes on the battlefield.

Former President Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by Putin, said referendums that would include regions within Russia itself would make the redrawn borders “irreversible” and allow Moscow to use “all means” to defend them.

In his overnight address, Zelenskyy said there were many questions surrounding the announcements, but stressed they would not change Ukraine’s commitment to retake areas occupied by Russian forces.

“The situation on the front line clearly indicates that the initiative belongs to Ukraine,” he said. “Our positions do not change because of noise or announcements somewhere. And we have the full support of our partners in this regard.

The upcoming votes, in the regions of Lugansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk, will certainly go in the direction of Moscow. But they were quickly dismissed as illegitimate by Western leaders who back Kyiv with military and other support that has helped its forces gain momentum on the battlefields to the east and south.

“I thank all Ukraine’s friends and partners for the firm and mass condemnation of Russia’s attempts to hold new sham referendums,” Zelenskyy said.

In another signal that Russia is digging for a protracted and possibly intensified conflict, the Kremlin-controlled lower house of parliament voted on Tuesday to toughen laws against desertion, surrender and looting by Russian troops. Lawmakers also voted to introduce possible 10-year prison terms for soldiers refusing to fight.

If approved, as expected, by the upper house and then signed by Putin, the legislation would strengthen the hands of commanders against reported faltering morale among soldiers.

In the Russian-occupied town of Enerhodar, shelling continued around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. Ukrainian energy operator Energoatom said Russian bombings again damaged infrastructure at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and briefly forced workers to start two diesel generators for emergency power for the cooling pumps of one of the reactors. .

These pumps are essential to avoid a meltdown in a nuclear facility even if the plant’s six reactors have been shut down. Energoatom said the generators were then shut down when main power was restored.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been in focus for months due to fears that the bombardment could lead to a radioactive leak. Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the bombings.

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