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Putin's mobilisation announcement signals readiness to escalate Ukraine conflict, while Penal Code amendments indicate Kremlin's alarm over lack of popular support

On 21 September 2022 President Vladimir Putin announced in a pre-recorded televised address a partial mobilisation of the Russian Federation for the first time since the Second World War. Putin said that the goal of the so-called ‘special operation' – the liberation of the Donbas – remains unchanged. Putin also warned the West that in the case of a threat to Russia's “territorial integrity”, he is ready to use all the means at his disposal to protect Russia, including nuclear capabilities.

In a subsequent speech Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu said that the country is fighting not Ukraine, but the “collective West”. Shoigu added that there are around 25 million Russians who fit the criteria of military reservists, but only around 1% of Russia's “mobilisation potential” will be used, with 300,000 reservists being called up.

Prior to Putin's speech, the Russian State Duma (parliament) amended the Russian Federation's Criminal Code on 20 September, adding new penalties for “crimes against military service”, including voluntary surrender, looting, and “crimes against state power”. A soldier who surrenders, will face between three and 15 years in prison.


An undeclared, ‘hybrid' mobilisation was also ongoing in Russia since the beginning of the war in which an unknown number of employees of some defence-related companies have been called up for ‘training' in Ukraine, inmates from penal colonies were promised amnesty if they participated in the ‘special military operation', and men of conscription age were contacted and invited to sign a contract to join the military. On 15 September Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov encouraged the governors of Russian regions to “self-mobilise”, to provide at least 1,000 volunteers from each of Russia's 85 federal subjects. However, the measures of secretive, hybrid, and regional mobilisations has not fulfilled Moscow's need for manpower.

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