Moscow: The partial mobilisation of military reservists ordered by Russian President is a sign of “weakness”, the US Ambassador in Ukraine Bridget Brink said amid a clear threat issued by Vladimir Putin to the West.
“Sham referenda and mobilisation are signs of weakness, of Russian failure,” Bridget Brink wrote on Twitter.
Brink was reacting to a rare address to the nation by Putin on Wednesday announcing a partial mobilisation of reservists for his ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine starting soon.
Putin said this was a necessary step to ensure territorial integrity and protect people in Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine. He also accused the West of engaging in nuclear blackmail against Russia.
Putin said Russia has “lots of weapons to reply” and that he was not bluffing.
His Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said 300,000 with combat experience will be called up starting Wednesday to fight.
“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,” Brink reacted immediately after.
The Guardian said a partial mobilisation will not solve the shortage of Russian troops on the battlefield and could be “deeply unpopular”. It called Putin’s speech “the usual grudge list of accusations”.
“It’s strange that well into six months into this conflict, Vladimir Putin is still living in a parallel reality where really Russia didn’t invade Ukraine, but Ukraine threatened Russia,” the Guardian correspondent said.
The UK’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace says Putin’s decision to mobilise military reservists to support the war in Ukraine shows that his invasion is failing. “He and his Defence Minister have sent tens of thousands of their own citizens to their deaths, ill equipped and badly led,” Wallace wrote in a statement posted by the UK Ministry of Defence on Twitter.
“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.”
After Putin’s speech, it was left to his defence minister to provide the details and try to dampen down the fears of Russian men across the country about this sudden “partial mobilisation” to Ukraine.
Sergei Shoigu said some 300,000 reservists would be called up – a fraction of the 25 million Russia has. They won’t be taken all at once but according to need, he said.
He insisted that students would not be used, they could “be calm” he said, and ‘keep going to class’. Neither will conscripts be sent to the front – a move which would have been very unpopular, the BBC said.
Instead, Russia said it will be using men who have battle experience. In his comments, Sergei Shoigu also claimed fewer than 6,000 Russian soldiers (5,937) had been killed in action, a number far below the estimates of Western intelligence agencies, and even less than has been reported in open sources.
However, it’s significant as it is the first time in months that Moscow’s given a figure.
Despite the soft voice and calm tone of the defence minister, this is a big shift in approach. The war that many Russians have been trying, largely, to ignore, has now been brought much closer to home for tens of thousands of them and their families, the BBC said.
A BBC analysed that it will take months to mobilise, equip and organise new fighting forces, even if those being called up have previous military experience.
Unless Russia starts throwing the new forces into the battle piecemeal, then they won’t be involved in the fighting until next spring, the BBC correspondent added.
And given Russia’s catastrophic material losses, Moscow may struggle to give new units the equipment they need to fight effectively. Using sophisticated western equipment, Ukraine’s military has played havoc with Russia’s occupation machine, blowing up ammunition dumps, command posts and bases behind front lines, the BBC report added.
It’s become increasingly difficult for the Kremlin to organise and equip the forces they already have in the fight, let alone any new ones.
In an update before Vladimir Putin’s televised address, the UK’s Ministry of Defence outlined some of the personnel shortages that Russian forces are experiencing in Ukraine.
It said the urgency for so-called referendums in occupied regions in Ukraine, which could take place as early as Friday, is “likely driven by fears of imminent Ukrainian attack and an expectation of greater security after formally becoming part of Russia”.
Russian forces in Ukraine “continue to experience personnel shortages”, the UK MoD tweeted, adding that the Russia Duma voted on September 20 to amend a law which extends punishments for defaulting troops.
“This is likely intended to limit the number of desertions and refusals and thereby to mitigate some of the immediate pressures,” it said.