Putin announces he will send more Russians to fight in Ukraine Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Wednesday what he called a "partial mobilization" in Russia as the war in Ukraine reaches nearly seven months and Moscow loses ground on the battlefield.

Putin is mobilizing hundreds of thousands of Russian reservists to fight in Ukraine

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A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a partial mobilization of Russia's armed forces on Wednesday morning, signing a decree that will send Russians with military training to join the fight in Ukraine. Military reservists are being told to leave their civilian lives to support Russia's invading army. And he also made what was seen as a threat to use nuclear weapons. He's heard through an interpreter for Sky News.

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PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Through interpreter) And if there is a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and for protecting our people, we will certainly use all the means available to us. And I'm not bluffing.

MARTINEZ: The announcement came as Russia struggles to replenish its fighting force in Ukraine after recent setbacks on the battlefield amid a surging Ukrainian counteroffensive. For more on Putin's speech, we turn now to NPR's Charles Maynes in Moscow. Charles, tell us more about who exactly is going to be sent to Ukraine and when.

CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: Yeah, sure. You know, really, since the beginning of this conflict, the Kremlin has been very careful to frame its actions in Ukraine as limited in nature, presumably because the government is sensitive to what the Russian public will support. So this is a special military operation, not a war. These are professional soldiers fighting on the ground, not conscripts. And in his address this morning, President Putin once again seemed to toe that line. Instead of a national draft, he's offering partial mobilization. Let's listen.

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PUTIN: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: So here, Putin says that only Russians with military backgrounds will be called up, and first and foremost, that means those who've served in the army and have the right experience. Now, this announcement comes as Russia's campaign has struggled of late in Ukraine. In a separate television interview, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said there would be an immediate call-up of 300,000 reservists to hold the line in Ukraine. Kremlin officials are hinting it could be much more, though.

MARTINEZ: Now, additional troops is something hard-liners of Russia have been calling for. Is this going to satisfy them?

MAYNES: Well, it would seem so. You know, they've long argued that without mobilizing society, Russia was in danger of losing this conflict. Now, 300,000 more troops will certainly help. The question is, can the Kremlin equip them? You know, Russian forces had been already fighting for seven months with the loss of weapons and equipment that comes with that. And there have been long reports of shortages of basic gear among the troops. So as we head in towards the winter, just imagine the requirements of now keeping a larger fighting force in the field in subzero temperatures.

MARTINEZ: Yeah, this announcement comes just a day after some Russian-controlled areas in Ukraine announced plans for referendums on becoming a part of Russia. Did he address that as well?

MAYNES: Yeah, he did. You know, Putin said that the liberation of the Donbas, in his words - this is the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine - he said that their liberation from so-called neo-Nazis remained Russia's primary goal, and he claimed some success on that front, as well as in areas in Ukraine's south. And Putin told Russians that Moscow had a moral obligation to protect these people from what he called fascist barbarism and defend their right to self-determination. So what does that mean? That means Russian forces are going to provide security as these territories hold a series of controversial referendums aimed at joining the Russian Federation later this week. In fact, the vote gets started on Friday.

MARTINEZ: How did Putin characterize what's happening in Ukraine? I mean, has he changed his tone at all? And what message did he have for the West and its backing for Ukraine?

MAYNES: Well, you know, he seemed to frame any problems Russia might be having on the idea that his forces were now taking on what he called the collective West, meaning the U.S., NATO and European allies.

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PUTIN: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: So here, Putin says the goal of this West is to weaken, isolate and ultimately destroy Russia. And the tough language didn't stop there. You know, Putin accused the West of providing Ukraine with weapons that could strike deep into Russian territory, even menacing Russia with nuclear threats. And he reminded them that the Kremlin has its own nuclear arsenal and would resort to all available means in the country's defense. And as you noted in your intro, the Russian leader assured that was no bluff.

MARTINEZ: NPR's Charles Maynes in Moscow. Charles, thanks.

MAYNES: Thank you.

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