VLADIMIR Putin is set to scramble 300,000 extra soldiers to the frontline as he today announced a partial mobilisation of Russian troops.
The total number of reservists drafted in the partial mobilisation is 300,000, officials said.
In his first televised address since the start of the war, Putin said: “To protect our Motherland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity. To ensure safety of our people, and people at the liberated territories.
“I find it necessary to support the suggestion of the Ministry of Defence and the General Staff about declaring partial mobilisation in Russia.”
In desperate bid to stop his army collapsing amid Ukraine’s lightning counterattack, Putin said he has signed a decree on the partial mobilisation, which is due to start on Wednesday,
Russia has lost some $1 billion in military equipment during the blitz, which has seen tanks and ammunition abandoned by fleeing battalions as Ukraine recaptures swathes of land.
Dramatic footage has captured Russian troops surrendering en masse with reports of plummeting morale among the soldiers.
Putin added: “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.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that conscripts and students won’t be mobilised, only those with relevant combat and service experience.
He said that 5,937 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine so far. Western estimates of Russian military losses stand at tens of thousands.
In his speech, Putin also warned the West that it is not a “bluff” that Russia would use all the means at its disposal to protect its territory.
He also made a thinly-veiled threat to nuke the West and said he had “lots of weapons” he was prepared to use.
Putin accused the West of engaging in nuclear blackmail and noted statements of some high-ranking representatives of the leading NATO states about the possibility of using nuclear weapons of mass destruction against Russia.
He added: “When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all the means at our disposal to defend Russia and our people, this is not a bluff.
“Russian citizens can be sure that the territorial integrity of our homeland, our independence and our freedom will be secured by all the means at our disposal.
“Those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the winds may blow in their direction.”
Putin also claimed Western countries are trying to “block” any independence and development.
He added: “In order to force their will in brutal ways to other people.
“The aim of the West is still weaken and destroy, they are openly saying that.”
Putin’s televised address to the nation comes a day after Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold votes 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.
The referendums, which have been expected to take place since the first months of the war that began on February 24, will start Friday in the Luhansk, Kherson and partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions.
Ukraine has accused Putin of “trying to shift the blame for starting an unprovoked war” and Russia’s worsening economic situation onto the West.
Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters: “Russia’s mobilisation was a predictable step that will prove extremely unpopular and underscores that the war is not going according to Moscow’s plan.”
Last night Putin mysteriously cancelled a speech last minute.
Kremlin insider Sergei Markov then announced on the Telegram social media platform just over two hours after Putin was due to speak that his address was “postponed until tomorrow”.
The political insider said: “The longer President Putin’s already announced speech is delayed, the more serious announcements it will contain.”