Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, has tweeted to reiterate Ukraine’s stance on the “referendums” that began today under Russian control in occupied Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya. He tweeted:
Today there is no legal action called a ‘referendum’ in the occupied territories. There is only – 1. Propaganda show for z conscription. 2. The territory of Ukraine to be released immediately.
Roman Starovoytthe governor of Russia’s Kursk region has announced additional payments for people from his region mobilizing to fight in Ukraine.
He opens his message on Telegram:
The first groups mobilized [soldiers] from the Kursk region to replenish the ranks of the Russian army. I have ordered that additional support measures for our fighters be prepared in addition to federal payments.
He then elaborates on a series of periodic additional payments, before concluding:
Some of the necessary documents have already been signed, the rest I have instructed to prepare as soon as possible. Payments will also be received by those Kursk people who have already signed contracts or have been mobilized.
The Kursk region borders the northeast of Ukraine.
This is from Dan Sabbagh, The Guardian’s defense and security editor:
Western officials believe Russia “will face major challenges” in mobilizing 300,000 more people for its armed forces and the country’s military will struggle to train and equip new recruits unless the Kremlin waits several months before deploying them to the frontline in Ukraine.
The intelligence experts acknowledged that the actual recruitment target could be higher, but while some reports have suggested that the Kremlin’s real aim is to mobilize 1 million, the officials reiterated in a briefing on Friday that it was their belief that it would be very difficult for Russia. will be to reach it 300,000, let alone a larger amount.
When printed, an official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that 300,000 was “an immense number of people to then try to make the appearance of fighting in Ukraine”. The official added: “The authorities will face major challenges even in gathering this number of staff.”
Russia has had problems with training and equipment so far during the conflict, and officials said this would almost certainly apply to newly pressed recruits. “We think they will be very challenged in training, let alone equip such a large force quickly,” the official said. Recruits are likely to get “old stuff and dodgy equipment,” they said.
Western officials believe there was a clear regional bias in Russian recruitment, which focused on poor and minority areas in the east of the country — avoiding the country’s middle-class urban centers. “We don’t see any teams being recruited in St. Petersburg or Moscow at this time,” an official said.
Western officials do not want to concern themselves with Vladimir Putin’s recent nuclear threats, but they did say they believe it was not necessarily the case that any Ukrainian territory to be annexed in the coming days through so-called referendums and weeks are considered covered by its nuclear umbrella.
“Russian red lines are not necessarily where they say they are,” the official said, and “there are parts of territory Russia now controls that are of greater strategic significance to Moscow than others.” Although the locations have not been specified, the Kremlin has long attached great importance to Crimea and the parts of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces occupied since 2014.
The Bank of Russia has issued a statement welcoming the announcement that key workers in the financial, IT and communications sectors will be excluded from the partial mobilization of Russia by the defense ministry. [See 10.16am]
Reuters quotes the statement as saying:
Employees engaged in critical areas remain in place so that the financial system can continue to operate smoothly, people can receive their pay, pension and social benefits on time, card payments and transfers work, and new loans can be issued.
Reuters gives some more details on those quotes from the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkovy. It quotes him and says:
We don’t threaten anyone with nuclear weapons. The criteria for its use are described in Russian military doctrine. We hope that the Biden administration is also aware of the danger of an uncontrolled escalation of the conflict in Ukraine.
Reuters notes that under Russian nuclear doctrine, the use of nuclear weapons is allowed if Moscow deems it an “existential threat”.
Here are the words – in translation – that Vladimir Putin said in his speech.
Nuclear blackmail was also launched. We are talking not only about the shelling of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, which is being encouraged by the west, which threatens a nuclear disaster, but also about the statements by some high-ranking representatives of the leading NATO states about the possibility and admissibility of weapons of mass destruction against Using Russia – Nuclear Weapons.
For 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 in some parts more modern than those of the NATO countries.
And 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 bluff. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weather vane can turn and point at them.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow is not threatening anyone with nuclear weapons, Russian state media reported.
Ryabkov was also cited as saying that an open confrontation with the US-NATO alliance was not in Russia’s interest.
A video shows Russian men called up as part of Vladimir Putin’s mobilization being told by an officer that the “games are over”.
The officer is heard telling the conscripts that they will receive two weeks of training before being sent to the front.
Kharkiv region governor Oleh Synyehubov has said 436 bodies have been exhumed from a mass grave in the eastern city of Izium.
Thirty of the bodies showed visible signs of torture in the cemetery in Kharkov, a region largely in the hands of Russian troops for a Ukrainian counter-offensive this month, Synyehubov told reporters alongside the region’s police chief Volodymyr Timoshko.
Three more graves have been found in areas recaptured by Ukrainian forces, he added.
British Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons has condemned the “mock referendum” in the areas of Ukraine occupied by Russian troops.
The outcome of these “referendums” in the provinces of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya on whether or not to declare independence and join Russia has “almost certainly already been decided,” Simmons wrote on Twitter.
She described the polls, widely condemned as illegal in the west, as “a media exercise designed to continue an illegal invasion of Russia”.
Olga Chyzh, an assistant professor in the political science department at the University of Toronto, writes for us today about how Vladimir Putin needs nothing less than a miracle to avoid a devastating defeat in Ukraine.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Putin did not disappoint when he announced a partial military mobilization earlier this week, she writes. At the same time, the self-proclaimed leaders of the occupied Ukrainian territories have rushed to schedule the dates of the mock referendums on whether or not to join Russia.
If mobilizing more troops is the key to winning the war, why did Putin wait so long? Why didn’t he announce the mobilization at the first sign that his plan for a “three-day war” was in trouble? He waited so long that an old member of his inner circle, Ramzan Kadyrov, called on him to escalate.
Putin hesitated because he knows that mobilization is risky. If all goes according to plan, mobilization could quickly replenish Russian forces in occupied territories and stop the Ukrainian advance. In the medium to long term, it could significantly increase Russia’s capacity for another successful offensive, forcing Ukraine to accept peace on Russian terms.
Read the full opinion piece here:
Traffic to Finland across the southeastern border with Russia remains busy following President Vladimir Putin’s order for a partial military mobilization.
The Finnish Border Force has published figures on the number of Russian citizens entering the country at border crossings on Finland’s eastern border.
Six thousand four hundred and seventy Russians arrived in Finland across the land border on Thursday, it says.