Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced a partial mobilization in Russia as the war in Ukraine reaches nearly seven months.
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.
Putin said he has signed a decree on the partial mobilisation, which is due to start later on Wednesday.
“We are talking about partial mobilisation, that is, only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be subject to conscription, and above all, those who served in the armed forces have a certain military specialty and relevant experience,” he said.
Putin’s address comes a day after Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold referendums on becoming integral parts of Russia.
The Kremlin-backed efforts to swallow up four regions could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war following Ukrainian successes on the battlefield.
The referendums, which have been expected to take place since the first months of the war, will start on Friday in the Luhansk, Kherson and partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions.
Reporting from Kyiv, Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo said it was a “defiant speech” by the Russian leader.
“He stressed that it was partial, not a full mobilisation. What exactly does this look like? He didn’t say,” he said. “In general, a full mobilisation would mean that any military (reservist), roughly 18-60 years old, could not leave Russia and would need to join the military.”
Elizondo said Putin’s speech is an indication that he wants to ramp up the Russian military to fight the war in Ukraine. “No matter how you look at it, it is definitely an escalation if you will, and a realisation that perhaps Moscow needs more troops in Ukraine to achieve its military goals.”
“Beyond that he also did confirm a very big headline out of his speech. He is moving forward with the referendum votes to take place on Ukrainian territory that is occupied by Russia right now. He mentioned Donbas a lot, the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. He also mentioned the region of Zaporizhzia.”