While warning West, Russian president orders partial military mobilization
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a partial military mobilization in the country during a delayed televised address on Wednesday.
The mobilization is Russia's first since World War II, as Putin warned the West that if it continued what he called its "nuclear blackmail" that Moscow would respond with the might of all its vast arsenal.
The move came after Russia's troops have taken weeks of major battlefield losses in Ukraine and as Kyiv presses onward with the fight in the northeast.
Putin justified the decision by describing fierce battles for the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine and claiming that the West was pushing Ukraine to attack Russian territory.
"In Washington, London and Brussels, they are directly pushing Kyiv to shift the military action to our territory … they talk about how all available means should be used to destroy Russia on the battlefield with the ensuing loss of political, economic, cultural and all types of sovereignty and the total plundering of our country," Putin said.
"If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all available means to protect our people－this is not a bluff," Putin said, adding that "mobilization measures will begin today, Sept 21".
In the prerecorded video address, Putin added: "Only those citizens currently in the reserve will be subject to a call-up for military service, first and foremost those who have served in the ranks of the armed forces."
He said the partial military mobilization of its 2-million-strong military reserves was to defend Russia and its territories, stating the West did not want peace in Ukraine.
The address had been scheduled to air on national television on Tuesday, but was delayed to Wednesday morning, with no reason given.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press conference on Wednesday that China's position on the Ukraine issue is consistent.
All countries' sovereignty and territorial integrity should be respected, the purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be jointly upheld, and the legitimate security concerns of any country should be respected, Wang said.
In a televised address minutes after Putin had finished speaking, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that 300,000 Russian reservists will be called up for service as part of the "partial" mobilization.
He said Russia now holds about 60 percent of Donetsk and had captured nearly all of Lugansk by July after slow advances during months of intense fighting.
Those gains are now under threat after Russian forces were driven from neighboring Kharkiv Province this month, losing control of their main supply lines for much of the Donetsk and Lugansk front lines.
A decree on mobilization subsequently published on the Kremlin's website stated that mobilized soldiers' contracts will not expire "until the end of the partial mobilization," with only age, health and imprisonment listed as possible exceptions for call-up.
Ahead of Putin's speech on Tuesday, leaders in eastern areas of four Ukrainian regions announced plans to hold referendums on joining Russia in the coming days.
Putin restated his aim was to "liberate" eastern Ukraine's Donbas industrial heartland and that most people in the region did not want to return to what he called the "yoke "of Ukraine.
Earlier on Tuesday, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced on social media that the capital will open a military recruitment center for foreign citizens.