Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced a partial military mobilisation in Russia for the seven-month-old war in Ukraine, warning it is “not a bluff”.
In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, Putin said he was defending Russian territories and that the West wanted to destroy the country. He said Russia would use all the means at its disposal to protect its territory.
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu told state media that Putin’s decree would see 300,000 additional personnel called up to serve in Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.
Here is how the world reacted to Putin’s announcement:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he did not believe the world would allow Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons and pledged to press on with liberating Ukrainian territory captured by Russian forces.
Zelenskyy was speaking to Germany’s BILD TV in an interview published hours after the Russian president announced a partial mobilisation and warned that Moscow would respond to what he called the West’s “nuclear blackmail”.
It was Russia’s first such mobilisation since World War II and signified the biggest escalation of the Ukraine war since Moscow’s invasion in February.
“I don’t believe that he [Putin] will use these weapons. I don’t think the world will allow him to use these weapons,” Zelenskyy said, according to a text published by the newspaper.
“Tomorrow Putin can say: apart from Ukraine, we also want a part of Poland, otherwise we will use nuclear weapons. We cannot make these compromises.”
Putin’s mobilisation has come in response to Russia’s failings on the battlefield, Zelenskyy said.
“He sees that his units are simply running away,” Zelenskyy said, adding that Putin “wants to drown Ukraine in blood, including the blood of his own soldiers”.
Zelenskyy also brushed off plans by four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine to hold referendums on September 23-27 on joining Russia, saying they were a “sham” that would not be recognised by most countries.
“We will act according to our plans step by step. I’m sure we will liberate our territory,” he said.
NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that Putin’s military mobilisation is a “dangerous and reckless” nuclear rhetoric.
The NATO chief also warned that more troops will escalate the conflict in Ukraine.
In an interview with Reuters, Stoltenberg said NATO will make sure there is no misunderstanding in Moscow about the seriousness of using nuclear weapons.
“We will make sure that there is no misunderstanding in Moscow about exactly how we will react. Of course, it depends upon what kind of situation or what kind of weapons they may use.
The most important thing is to prevent that from happening and that is why we have been so clear in our communications with Russia about the unprecedented consequences,” Stoltenberg said, referring to any Russian use of nuclear weapons.
Putin’s speech was a worrying escalation of the war in Ukraine and his threats must be taken seriously, British foreign office minister Gillian Keegan has said.
“Clearly, it’s something that we should take very seriously because, you know, we’re not in control – I am not sure he’s in control either, really. This is obviously an escalation,” Keegan told Sky News.
Meanwhile, defence minister Ben Wallace said the Russian president was breaking his “own promises not to mobilise parts of his population”.
“No amount of threats and propaganda can hide the fact that Ukraine is winning this war, the international community are united and Russia is becoming a global pariah.”
The United States is taking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “irresponsible” veiled threat to use nuclear weapons “seriously,” a senior US official has said.
“It’s irresponsible rhetoric for a nuclear power to talk that way. But it’s not atypical for how he’s been talking the last seven months and we take it very seriously,” said John Kirby, spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council.
“We’re monitoring as best we can – their strategic posture. So if we have to, we can alter ours. We’ve seen no indication that that’s required right now.”
Kirby reiterated previous comments by President Joe Biden when asked what the US response would be to Russia reaching for its nuclear arsenal.
“There’ll be severe consequences. Not only will he be that much more of pariah on the world stage, but there’ll have to be severe consequences that the international community will have.”
Kirby described Putin’s order to mobilise an expected 300,000 reservists from around Russia as a sign of weakness.
“It’s definitely a sign that he is struggling,” Kirby said. “He has suffered tens of thousands of casualties. He has terrible morale, unit cohesion on the battlefield. Command and control has still not been solved. He’s got desertion problems and he’s forcing the wounded back into the fight – so clearly manpower is a problem.”
The US ambassador in Ukraine has meanwhile called the partial mobilisation a sign of “weakness”.
“Sham referenda and mobilisation are signs of weakness, of Russian failure,” Bridget Brink wrote in a Twitter message.
“The United States will never recognise Russia’s claim to purportedly annexed Ukrainian territory, and we will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” she said.
Sham referenda and mobilization are signs of weakness, of Russian failure. 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.
— Ambassador Bridget A. Brink (@USAmbKyiv) September 21, 2022
Germany’s Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said it was “another bad and wrong step from Russia, which of course we will discuss and consult on politically regarding how to respond”.
The government’s spokesperson also said that the “Russian sham referendums in Ukraine will never be recognised”.
The German chancellor sees in Russia’s partial military mobilisation signs that Moscow’s attack on Ukraine is not successful, a government spokesperson said.
Regarding Putin’s plans for four occupied regions to hold referendums in the coming days on joining Russia, the spokesperson said that Russian “sham referendums” would never be recognised.
The European Union’s executive said Putin’s partial mobilisation decree proved that the Russian president was “in desperation” and only seeking to escalate the crisis.
“This is just another proof that Putin is not interested in peace, that he’s interested in escalating this war of aggression,” a foreign policy spokesman for the European Commission, Peter Stano, told a news conference.
“This is also yet another sign of his desperation with how his aggression is going against Ukraine … he is only interested in further advancing and continuing his destructive war, which has had already so many bad consequences worldwide.”
Stano also said that Putin is waging a “very dangerous nuclear gamble”.
China’s foreign ministry urged all parties to engage in dialogue and consultation and find a way to address the security concerns of all parties after Putin warned the West over what he described as “nuclear blackmail”.
China’s position on Ukraine is consistent and clear, Wang Wenbin, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said at a regular media briefing on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has said Putin’s announcement was “meant to scare the international community”.
“As for nuclear threats, the aim is the same as it has been so far – it is to fuel fear and terrorise the wider public. The Kremlin is blackmailing the international community and wants to scare us and deter us from helping Ukraine. Europe will not tire,” she added.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Russia’s mobilisation order is a sign of panic at the Kremlin, which should not be taken as a direct threat of full-out war with the West.
“The mobilisation, calling for referenda in the Donetsk, it is all a sign of panic. His rhetoric on nuclear weapons is something we have heard many times before, and it leaves us cold,” Rutte told Dutch broadcaster NOS.
“It is all part of the rhetoric we know. I would advise to remain calm.”
The EU member which borders Russia said will not offer refuge to any Russians fleeing Moscow’s mobilisation of troops, Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkevics said in a tweet on Wednesday, citing security concerns.
#Putin announced “partial” mobilisation and annexation of parts of #Ukraine. We must not give in to his blackmail and support Ukraine as much as we can. #Russia is as dangerous to Europe and the world’s peace today as Nazi Germany was in the last century #StandWithUkraine
— Edgars Rinkēvičs (@edgarsrinkevics) September 21, 2022
Prime Minister Peter Fiala said Putin mobilisation move was an attempt to “further escalate” the war and it was proof that Russia is the “sole aggressor”.
“It is needed to help Ukraine, and in our own interest, we must continue with it,” he added.
Jailed Kremlin critic asserted that partial mobilisation will lead to a “massive tragedy” in a video statement during one of his court cases.
“This will result in a massive tragedy, in a massive amount of deaths … in order to keep his personal power, Putin went into a neighbouring country, killed people there and is now sending a huge quantity of Russian citizens into this war,” Navalny said, appearing in court via video-link.
Moldova’s foreign minister “strongly” condemned Russia’s plan to annex occupied Ukrainian regions through pretend referendums.
“We reaffirm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.”
Lithuania raised the readiness level of its army’s rapid response force “to prevent any provocations from the Russian side”, defence minister Arvydas Anusauskas said.
“Since Russia’s military mobilisation will also be carried out in the Kaliningrad region, in our neighborhood, Lithuania cannot just watch,” he wrote on Facebook.
“Today is international peace day and instead of celebrating it properly, unfortunately, this morning we took note with concern of President Putin’s statement regarding the partial mobilisation of the Russian Federation’s army and the so-called referenda,” Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca said.