© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Russian military members march past an honor guard during the Victory Day military parade, marking the 77th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022. REUTERS / Shamil
By Guy Faulconbridge
LONDON (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered Russia’s first mobilization of forces since World War Two and warned that Moscow would defend itself with the might of all its vast arsenal. in the face of a nuclear threat from the West.
The blunt warning from the supreme leader of Russia, which has more nuclear warheads than the United States, marks the biggest escalation of the war since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24 and accompanied by the decision to call up an additional 300,000 reserve troops.
“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all available means to protect Russia and our people – this is not a hoax. “, Putin said in a televised address to the nation.
He made the comments after accusing the West of “nuclear blackmail”, saying that top government officials from several “top” NATO countries had talked about the possibility of using nuclear weapons. against Russia.
He also accused the West of risking a “nuclear disaster” by allowing Ukraine to shut down the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which Kyiv denied.
Giving his clear support for the referendums to be held in the coming days in Russian military-controlled Ukraine – the first step to formally annexing a part of Ukraine on the scale of Hungary – Putin says the West is plotting to destroy Russia.
In its active anti-Russian policy, the West has crossed all boundaries.
“Those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can change in their direction.”
The war, which has sparked the worst confrontation with the West since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, has killed tens of thousands of people and sent a wave of inflation through the global economy.
Russia’s nuclear doctrine permits the use of these weapons if weapons of mass destruction are used against it or if or if the Russian state faces an existential threat from conventional weapons. .
Putin said he also signed a decree on partial mobilization.
The deployment, which affects anyone who has been a professional soldier in Russia rather than a conscript, begins immediately.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said he expected 300,000 to be summoned out of the country’s roughly 25 million population of massive reserves.
After pro-Russian officials in four regions of Ukraine controlled by Russian troops demanded a referendum on joining Russia a day earlier, Putin said Moscow had no moral right to hand them over. for “execution”.
Putin said that Russia will support the decisions of the people of the Donbas, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine. That paved the way for the formal annexation of about 15% of Ukraine’s territory.
Mr. Putin said his aim was to “liberate” the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, and that most people living in areas under Russian control do not want to be ruled by Kyiv anymore.
Ukraine and the West have said that the referendums will be illegal and that the votes are fake.