Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial military mobilization in Russia during a pre-recorded speech on Wednesday. The mobilization will begin immediately.
Only reservists will be called up, with a focus on those with experience, said Putin. The president added that militants in the Luhansk and Donbass Peoples Republics will be considered as soldiers of the Russian Federation going forward.
"Those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can turn in their direction."Russian President Vladimir Putin
NATO chief's statement
Russian President Vladimir Putin's mobilization of thousands of extra troops for the war in Ukraine will escalate the conflict and his threat to use nuclear weapons was "dangerous and reckless rhetoric," NATO's secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.
Stoltenberg said Putin's moves demonstrated "that the war is not going according to his plans" and it was clear that the Russian president had made "a big miscalculation."
"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 or 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.
"We are talking not only about the shelling of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, which is encouraged by the West, which threatens a nuclear catastrophe, but also about the statements of some high-ranking representatives of the leading NATO states about the possibility and admissibility of using weapons of mass destruction against Russia - nuclear weapons," said Putin.
"To those who allow themselves to make such statements about Russia, I would like to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and for some components more modern than those of the NATO countries. And if the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. It's not a bluff."
"Those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can turn in their direction," warned the Russian president, adding that Russia will use "all available means."
Putin claimed that the West is trying to "weaken and destroy Russia," adding that "When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff."
Amid reports that Russian opposition activists were planning protests against the mobilization for Wednesday night, the Moscow prosecutor's office warned Russians against conducting "uncoordinated actions" and "illegal activities."
"The Moscow Prosecutor's Office warns that the distribution of such materials through social networks, forums, other Internet platforms, the involvement of Internet users, including minors, in illegal activities, as well as participation in illegal actions are punishable under the current administrative and criminal legislation," said the office, according to RIA Novosti.
Annexation of Ukrainian territories
"After the Kyiv regime publicly renounced a peaceful solution to the Donbas problem and announced its claims to nuclear weapons, it became clear that a new offensive was inevitable. And then there would be an attack on the Crimea - on Russia," said the Russian president.
Putin additionally stressed that Russia would "support the decision of the residents of" Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donbass and Luhansk, referencing a referendum expected to be held to annex the Ukrainian regions to Russia. Zaporizhzhia was not mentioned in earlier announcements about the referendum.
"We cannot, we have no moral right to hand over people close to us to be torn to pieces by executioners, we cannot but respond to their sincere desire to determine their own fate, the parliaments of the People's Republics of Donbass, as well as the military-civilian administrations of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, decided to hold referendums on the future of these territories and turned to us, to Russia, with a request to support such a step," said Putin.
Putin additionally claimed that Kyiv originally reacted positively to Russia's demands during talks in Istanbul, but that the West had given Ukraine a "direct order to disrupt all agreements."
Russian Defense Minister: 5,937 Russian soldiers dead
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also spoke during the address, updating that 5,937 Russian soldiers have been killed in the invasion of Ukraine.
According to the defense minister, a total of 300,000 soldiers will be called up during the partial mobilization. Shoigu estimated that there are about 25 million Russians in the country who could be called up if needed, but stressed that students would not be subject to the mobilization and that conscripts would not be sent to the war in Ukraine.
"Russia is fighting not so much with the Ukrainian army as with the collective West," said Shoigu, adding that "The entire NATO satellite constellation is working against the Russian Federation in Ukraine" and that "Western command sits in Kyiv and directs the military operation in Ukraine."
Shoigu added that the partial mobilization was being declared primarily to secure the Ukrainian territories held by Russia and the line of contact.
The Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of Russia Rashid Nurgaliyev and Deputy State Secretary of the Security Council of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Neverovsky held security consultations in Moscow on Wednesday, according to RIA Novosti.
Russia's neighbors respond to Putin
Lithuania's Defense Minister Arvydas Anušauskas announced after the address that his country's forces would be placed on high alert in order to "prevent any provocation from Russia."
"Since Russia's military mobilization will also be carried out in the Kaliningrad region, i.e. in our neighborhood, Lithuania cannot just watch," said Anušauskas. "We are also considering how to further increase support for Ukraine and invite all our allies to further increase the flow of this support. Russian aggression in Ukraine must be stopped.
"Russia's mobilization desperation shows that it has no other options to preserve the occupied territories of Ukraine and is grasping at the last straw."
Meanwhile, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs announced that "due to security reasons" Latvia will not issue humanitarian or other types of visas to Russian citizens who try to evade the Russian mobilization.
Rinkēvičs added that Latvia will consult with its allies and partners on "joint action" in connection with Putin's mobilization announcement, stressing that the level of military threat to Latvia is still low.
#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
"#Putin announced 'partial' mobilization 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," tweeted the foreign minister.
West responds to mobilization
British foreign office minister Gillian Keegan called the announcement a "worrying escalation" by Russian in a comment to Sky News, adding that Putin's threats should be taken "seriously."
UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace also responded to Putin's address, stating "President Putin's breaking of his own promises not to mobilize parts of his population and the illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine, are an admission that his invasion if failing. He and his defense minister have sent tens of thousands of their own citizens to their deaths, ill equipped and badly led. 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."
US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink rejected Putin's announcement on Wednesday, tweeting "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."