Putin Threatens Nuclear Retaliation Amid Troop Mobilization and Backs Annexation Plans
(TheRedWire.com) – Invading Russian troops fled from Ukraine ahead of defenders during the week of September 12, returning more than 2300 square miles of territory. President Vladimir Putin called for troop mobilization and threatened nuclear retaliation on Wednesday, September 21. A day earlier, four-Russian controlled regions announced a vote calling for them to break from Ukraine and join Russia. It’s the aggressor’s latest strategy in their ongoing war with the former Soviet bloc nation.
In late February, Putin initiated the brutal war. It’s the largest conflict on the European continent since World War II. He argued Nazi sympathizers who were allowing the West to encroach on Russia led the country and created a threatening and unsafe environment. He stated his country’s mission included demilitarizing Ukraine and freeing it from oppression.
Almost immediately, things began to backfire. The United States and NATO approved weapons shipments and aid to the smaller country. The European alliance endorsed the former Soviet state as a candidate for membership. The media has widely reported that Russia’s military is demoralized after failing to take the capital city, Kyiv, and recently struggled to hold numerous territories. Now, it appears Putin is pushing back.
Putin Issues Stark Warnings
Experts said the president’s seven-minute speech was a warning he was escalating the war. Putin ordered the government to partially mobilize reservists, the first time Russia had done such a thing since World War II. The call comes as the army struggles to have enough soldiers to meet its combat objectives in eastern Ukraine. Officials say the military could call up as many as 30,000 reservists to active duty and add more later.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu noted officials would only activate reservists with specific professional military pedigrees and experiences. Additionally, Moscow ordered extensions for soldiers with expiring contracts, preventing them from leaving the service until there was no longer a need for the partial mobilization of the reservists. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed the nation needed the move because they are conducting a proxy war against NATO, which has supplied weapons to Ukraine.
A day earlier, Russian-controlled eastern and southern Ukrainian regions called for referendum votes starting on Friday in the Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and Donetsk regions. If approved, they would become part of Russia. Still, Ukrainian officials said they didn’t authorize such a move, potentially allowing the Kremlin to escalate its war efforts.
Additionally, Putin warned if NATO threatened Russia’s territorial integrity, he had a wide variety of ways to enact destruction and would use all means at his disposal, adding he wasn’t bluffing. Some took his statement as a threat to use nuclear weapons.
The West Responds
The West quickly denounced the referendum votes and vowed their continued military support of the war-torn country. US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink tweeted that the referendum was bogus and said the reserve call-up proved how weakened Russia was. She swore the US would never recognize any annexed Ukrainian territory and would stand by them.
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
The ambassador wasn’t alone in her criticism. Defense Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder said the Russian move was evidence Moscow was failing to protect its illegal occupation. He stated the aggressors continued to experience low morale and struggled with military operations and logistics.
British Foreign Office minister Gillian Keegan said Putin was escalating his war footing and emphasized she wasn’t confident the Russian president was even in control. British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Putin’s statement was evidence the war was failing. He added that Russia’s threats couldn’t hide the reality that Ukraine was winning and that the international community is not on the interloper’s side.
German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck said Moscow made a bad strategic move.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy heavily criticized the announcement, saying the referendums were nothing more than “noise.” He thanked the West for denouncing the referendum votes and declared it would not change Ukraine’s plans to recapture occupied Russian territory.
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