Putin – No plans “yet” for more massive airstrikes on Ukraine
Russia should be done calling up reservists in two weeks, President Vladimir Putin said today, promising an end to a mobilization that is dividing hundreds of thousands of men called up to fight in Ukraine and many fleeing the country.
Putin also said Russia had no plans “for now” for more massive airstrikes like the ones it carried out this week, in which it fired more than 100 long-range missiles at targets. targets across Ukraine.
Putin ordered the mobilization three weeks ago, responding to Russian defeats on the battlefield with an escalation. He also proclaimed the annexation of four partially occupied Ukrainian provinces and threatened to use nuclear weapons.
The mobilization has led in parts of Russia to the first signs of public criticism of the authorities since the start of the war. Officials acknowledged that some mistakes were made in determining who would be called. Members of ethnic minorities and residents of rural areas have complained of being recruited at higher rates than ethnic Russians and city dwellers.
Defending the mobilization order, Putin told a press conference at the end of a summit in Kazakhstan that the front line was too long to be defended with contract soldiers alone.
He said that 222,000 of the expected 300,000 reservists had already been mobilized. “This work is coming to an end,” he said. “I think in about two weeks all mobilization activities will be completed.”
Since the mobilization order was given, Russian forces have continued to lose ground in eastern Ukraine and have also lost a significant area in the south. A Western official said some of the newly mobilized Russian troops were already on the battlefield, claiming casualties, and their presence was unlikely to turn the tide of the war in favor of Moscow.
“Clearly they were deployed with very, very limited training and very, very poor equipment, and that’s why we’re saying it’s really unlikely they’ll have a positive impact at short term,” the official said.
The official also suggested that Russia did not have enough missiles to sustain attacks like this week’s: “Russia is rapidly depleting its supply of long-range precision munitions, especially its air-launched cruise missiles, so it’s not a campaign that she can hold indefinitely.”
International Monetary Fund member countries have also issued a near-unanimous call for Russia to end its war in Ukraine, the chairman of the IMF’s governing board said, calling the conflict the main factor fueling inflation and slowing down the global economy.
But Nadia Calvino, Spain’s economy minister, told a news conference that Russia had again blocked the release of a joint statement at a meeting of the International Monetary and Financial Committee.
“The main thing is not to stop”
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s top general Valeriy Zaluzhnyi struck an optimistic tone after his country’s rapid advances in the northeast and south in recent weeks.
“The strategic initiative is in our hands, so the main thing is not to stop,” Zaluzhnyi said after speaking by phone with the Commander-in-Chief of NATO’s Combined Forces Europe, General American Christopher Cavoli.
Ukraine’s General Staff said Friday evening on Facebook that Ukrainian forces had destroyed large amounts of Russian weapons and equipment in Antratsyt, south of Lugansk, an area where Ukraine hopes to retake major towns after its success in the Kharkiv region.
He said Russian forces had launched more artillery and airstrikes on towns such as Konstantynivka southwest of Bakhmut, their main target in the Donetsk region, and the town of Zaporizhzhia.
Reuters was unable to verify reports from the battlefield.
Separately, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko put his country on what he called heightened terrorism alert on Friday, the latest move by Putin’s closest international ally hinting at growing pressure to join the war.
Lukashenko has allowed Russian forces to use Belarus as a staging ground, but has so far kept his own troops out of the fighting. This week he announced that Russian troops would join Belarusian troops near the Ukrainian border.
Russia is trying to impose its domination over the Ukrainian territories it claims to have annexed, even as its troops are repulsed. A Russian-installed official said Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, located in Russian-controlled territory near the frontline in the southern province of Zaporizhzhia, was now operating to Russian standards.
The plant was captured by Russian forces early in the conflict, but Ukrainian engineers had continued to operate it. Pro-Russian officials did not specify the fate of these workers. Kyiv says some have been threatened with forced conscription into the Russian military unless they agree to work for Russia’s state nuclear agency.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency tweeted separately that Russia and Ukraine were closing in on an agreement on a protection zone for the plant, saying the situation there was “untenable”.