Russia: Mobilisation 'a humiliation' for Putin says Rifkind
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Former defence secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind has claimed Putin’s mass mobilisation announcement amounted to “another humiliation” for the Russian leader because it acted as “an admission that he is losing the war”. Sir Malcom, who served under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, suggested the speech inadvertently revealed that Putin “has not got adequate troops”, as well as that he has been “unable to persuade people to volunteer” to join the war effort. Putin’s speech, though riddled with baseless claims and oft-made threats by Russian officials, constituted the first mass mobilisation of troops since World War Two, with British foreign office minister Gillian Keegan calling it “an escalation”.
Asked what he made of Putin’s speech, Sir Malcom said: “I think the first point that one must be clear about is that this is another humiliation for President Putin.
“Firstly, to have any mobilisation at all, including your reservists, is an admission that he is losing the war, that he has not got adequate troops and also that he has not been able to persuade people to volunteer to join the forces.
“They have been trying desperately [to recruit], including trying to persuade convicts in the prisons to join the army in order to reduce their sentences.
“So, that has all, obviously, been a farce and this is now what we are facing.”
Sir Malcom added: “What we have seen has been a complete disaster from the start because [Putin] was forced to withdraw from Kyiv, the capital, which he thought he was going to take in a few days.
“He has now lost virtually all of the Kharkiv Oblast and is having to call on more troops because he knows his existing army is losing everyday. That is very bad news for him.”
In a televised address to Russia and the globe, President Vladimir Putin warned the West that if it continued what he called its “nuclear blackmail” then Moscow would respond with the might of all its vast arsenal.
He said: “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all available means to protect our people – this is not a bluff.” He added that Russia had “lots of weapons to reply”.
Russia’s defence minister said the partial mobilisation will see 300,000 reservists called up and would apply to those with previous military experience.
Putin’s partial mobilisation significantly escalates the conflict over Ukraine and comes as Russia battles a Ukrainian counter-offensive that has forced its troops to retreat and surrender some occupied territory.
“Clearly it’s something that we should take very seriously because, you know, we’re not in control – I’m not sure he’s in control either, really. This is obviously an escalation,” British foreign office minister Gillian Keegan said.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russia’s mobilisation was a predictable step that would prove extremely unpopular and underscored that the war was not going according to Moscow’s plan.
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Putin said the partial military mobilisation of its 2 million-strong military reservists was to defend Russia and its territories, arguing the West did not want peace in Ukraine.
He said Washington, London, Brussels were pushing Kyiv to “transfer military operations to our territory” with the aim of the “complete plunder of our country”. Ukraine’s military has sporadically struck targets inside Russia throughout the conflict, using long-range weapons supplied by the West.
“Nuclear blackmail has also been used,” Putin said, citing Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe. Both Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of endangering the plant in the fighting.
He also accused high-ranking officials of leading NATO nations of making statements about “the possibility and admissibility of using weapons of mass destruction against Russia – nuclear weapons”. He said: “To those who allow themselves such statements regarding Russia, I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and in some components more modern than those of the NATO countries.”
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