Russia paves the way for full mobilisation against Ukraine
Russian lawmakers have today paved the way for Putin to declare a full mobilisation against Ukraine as puppet governments in the occupied regions prepared to hold referendums on becoming part of the mainland.
Moscow’s rubber-stamp parliament approved new laws tightening up punishments for troops who surrender too easily or desert, saying that doing so during ‘mobilisation, martial law [or] wartime’ would be considered an aggravating factor.
It is the first time such language has been included in the legal code and appears designed to lay the groundwork for Putin to escalate his ‘special military operation’ into a full-blown war and to begin conscripting men into the armed forces.
Meanwhile puppet leaders in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions of Ukraine – all the areas Russia currently occupies – began preparations to hold sham referendums on becoming part of the mainland.
Doing so would allow the Kremlin to claim attacks on those regions – which Ukraine is currently battling to liberate – are attacks on Russian soil, handing Putin a pretext to escalate the fighting.
It comes after Ukrainian forces inflicted a humiliating defeat on Moscow’s armies around Kharkiv, routing Putin’s men and recapturing a vast swathe of territory.
Vladimir Putin appears to be paving the way to escalate his invasion of Ukraine, with laws being pushed through that write ‘mobilisation’ into the legal code for the first time
It comes in the wake of Ukraine’s advances across the east of the country, with troops capturing the town of Bilohorivka (pictured) in Luhansk yesterday
Kyiv’s men are continuing to advance following the rout of Russian forces near Kharkiv, as Zelensky says they are ‘panicking’
Denis Pushilin, leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, filmed himself calling fellow separatist leader Leonid Pasechnik whilst saying preparations should begin to hold a vote.
Pasechnik, who controls the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic, then adopted a law on holding a referendum later in the day, Russian state media announced.
Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-appointed head of Kherson, said he had also decided to hold a referendum on joining Russia in a post on Telegram.
Meanwhile heads of the ‘military-civilian administration’ in Zaporizhzhia appealed to the head of the region to also call a vote.
It comes after Putin had been urged by hardline military bloggers and propagandists to escalate the war, amid widespread anger at Russia’s lack of progress during the first seven months of fighting.
‘Judging by what is happening and what is about to happen, this week marks either the eve of our imminent victory or the eve of nuclear war,’ leading propagandist Margarita Simonyan said after the mobilisation law passed. ‘I can’t see any third way.’
Hardline MP Leondid Slutsky welcomed the move, saying ‘mobilisation is timely and necessary’.
‘It is not Kiev and the Ukrainian people who are at war, but the puppet regime of the NATO bloc and the US president.’
Putin has held off from declaring mobilisation up to this point, apparently fearing the wrath of ordinary Russians who have so-far ignored the war or voiced support knowing they had nothing to lose from it.
It also comes against the backdrop of a growing number of politicians and public figures calling for him to resign over the military failings.
The rout in Kharkiv handed Ukraine some 3,000 square miles of territory back and has split Russian forces across the Donbas and Kharkiv front, with Putin lacking the manpower to defend both simultaneously.
Donbas leader calls for Russia referendum
The head of a breakaway region of Ukraine has called for a referendum on becoming part of Russia.
Denis Pushilin, leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), said that steps should be taken to prepare for a vote on the issue.
He made the call in a phone conversation with Leonid Pasechnik – head of the neighbouring Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) – video of which was posted online.
Pushilin claimed holding the referendum would be ‘a reflection of the opinion of our people’ which he said had been settled ‘for a long time’.
Though the DPR and LPR are under defacto Kremlin control, they are currently considered by Putin to be independent nations.
The territories are not recognised by any major world body.
There is also no evidence to suggest a majority of people in the regions – who are being conscripted by Russia and sent to fight as ‘cannon fodder’ – would welcome joining the mainland.
Putin held a similar sham referendum in Crimea in 2014 before annexing it.
Putin’s commanders are now trying to reinforce and push the Ukrainians back, while Zelensky’s men hold the new line, probe defences, and advance where possible.
Summing up the situation overnight, Zelensky said: ‘We are stabilising the situation, holding our positions. Firmly. So firmly that the occupiers are panicking tangibly.
‘We warned the Russian soldiers in Ukraine that they have only two options: Flee our land or surrender…
‘Thanks to the Security Service of Ukraine, we are now confident that the occupiers will not have any foothold on Ukrainian soil.’
Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the occupied Luhansk region, said soldiers had pushed into the village of Bilohorivka – the first in Luhansk to be recaptured.
It will provide the jumping-off point for an assault on the wider region with the aim of returning it to Ukrainian control, he added.
However, he warned that Russia is preparing its defences and ‘we will not simply march in’ – seeking to dampen anticipation of another Kharkiv-style rapid advance.
Ukraine is also attacking towards the south, in Kherson, where its forces sank a Russian pontoon bridge transporting weapons and troops across the Dnipro River on Monday.
‘The situation remains tense, but under our control,’ a spokesman for Ukraine’s southern command said.
Luhansk and the neighbouring province of Donetsk comprise the industrialised eastern region of Donbas, which Moscow says it intends to seize as a primary aim of what it calls the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine.
Ukrainian troops have begun to push into Luhansk since driving Russian forces out of northeastern Kharkiv province in a lightning counter-offensive this month.
In a sign of nervousness from a Moscow-backed administration in Donbas about the success of Ukraine’s recent offensive, its leader called for urgent referendums on the region becoming part of Russia.
Denis Pushilin, head of the Moscow-based separatist administration in Donetsk, called on his fellow separatist leader in Luhansk to combine efforts toward preparing a referendum on joining Russia.
The Ukraine general staff said on Monday that fighting had been limited to the Donetsk region.
‘During the past 24 hours, units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine repelled enemy attacks in the areas of Mayorsk, Vesele, Kurdyumivka and Novomykhailivka settlements,’ it said in a daily update.
In the south, where another Ukrainian counter-offensive has been making slower progress, Ukraine’s armed forces said they had sunk a barge carrying Russian troops and equipment across a river near Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region.
‘Attempts to build a crossing failed to withstand fire from Ukrainian forces and were halted. The barge … became an addition to the occupiers’ submarine force,’ the military said in a statement on Facebook.
Ukraine is still assessing what took place in areas that were under Russian control for months before a rout of Russian troops dramatically changed the dynamic of the war earlier this month.
At a vast makeshift cemetery in woods near the recaptured town of Izium, Ukrainian forensic experts have so far dug up 146 bodies buried without coffins, Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Synehubov said on Monday. Some 450 graves have been found at the site, Zelenskiy has said
There are claims that Putin’s circle are deeply divided over any move to force men into the army and to the frontline in the war.
They believe it could be a tipping point triggering opposition and leading to Putin’s demise.
One claim is that FSB director Alexander Bortnikov is ‘categorically against’ mobilisation.
The move comes after some loyalist governors have agreed to ‘self-mobilisation’ of men in their regions following a call from Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
While such moves do not have the force of law, it means an intensification of efforts to recruit soldiers.
The head of Kemerovo region Sergei Tsivilev said: ‘A large number of Kuzbass residents are ready to defend our Great Motherland today […].
‘I have no doubt: all the tasks of the special military operation will be completed,’
Ukraine is continuing to exhume a mass grave site in Izyum where the bodies of civilians and soldiers – some of whom appear to have been tortured – after liberating it from Russia
Ukrainian forensic scientists and war crimes investigators dressed in hazmat suits work to exhume graves in a forest near the city of Izyum
Recent days have also seen calls from minor party leaders for mobilisation, evidently a sign that Putin would soon throw his weight behind such a plan.
Political expert Dmitry Oreshkin said: ‘It is obvious that the words about mobilization uttered by [Communist Gennady] Zyuganov, [LDPR Leonid] Slutsky and [Just Russia Sergei] Mironov will inevitably be followed by ‘some organizational steps’.
‘The Kremlin does not want to say this word, but instructs deputies appointed from the Kremlin to say it,’ Oreshkin said in an interview with Vozdukh.
‘What is happening in Ukraine is unequivocally interpreted as a military defeat.
‘Holes need to be filled, and if so, then you need more cannon fodder.
‘The regime cannot do without mobilisation in one form or another.’
He warned: ‘The ‘Putin majority’, 75%, who allegedly support the military operation, support it theoretically, as long as they can watch it on TV, lying on the couch, and as long as it does not concern them personally […].
‘The problem is that this TV picture is increasingly at odds with reality.
‘The second problem is that a crawler sofa with a long-range weapon begins to crawl out from under the viewer’s ass.
‘Either he can be called, or his son can be called, and in return he can get a bag of bones.
‘Then it’s a completely different feeling.
‘People like to fight and win, but not at their own expense,’ the political scientist concludes.’
Powerful Putin ally Radyrov, the Chechen leader, said a week ago in words that now seem prophetic: ‘If you ask me, my opinion as Ramzan Kadyrov, I would declare martial law, I would declare mobilisation.
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‘I would start preparing people for martial law.
‘We don’t know what will happen tomorrow..…
‘We must not wait for the leadership of the state to declare mobilisation, we must all mobilise, each region must give the forces and means that it has.
‘Offer what they can to support our military.’
Pro-war hardliner Igor ‘Strelkov’ Girkin who has long claimed the Kremlin war plan is flawed, said: ‘Thank God, finally, someone decided to call the Russian authorities to work instead of the Defence Ministry, because it is clear that MOD failed in replenishing and most likely will not be able to handle mobilisation.’
Among those sponsoring today’s mobilisation move are MPs Dmitry Vyatkin, 48, from the ruling United Russia party, Ernest Abdulov, 72, United Russia ,
Vasily Piskarev, 58, United Russia, Andrei Kartapoolov, 58, United Russia,
and leader of the hardline Liberal Democratic Party of Russia [LDPR] Leonid Slutsky, 54.
Also sponsoring were: Nikolai Kolomeytsev, 66, Communist,
Vladislav Davankov, 38, a New People’s Party, and
Oleg Nilov, 60, Just Russia, Viktor Sobolev, 72, a Communist former army officer.
Senators Andrei Klishas, 49, and Olga Kovitidi, 60, backed the mobilisation laws.