President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia accelerated his war effort in Ukraine on Wednesday, announcing a new campaign that would call up roughly 300,000 reservists to the military while also directly challenging the West over its support for Ukraine with a veiled threat of using nuclear weapons.
In a rare videotaped address to the nation, Putin stopped short of declaring a full, national draft but instead called for a “partial mobilisation” of people with military experience. Though Moscow’s troops have recently suffered humiliating losses on the battlefield, he said that Russia’s goals in Ukraine had not changed and that the move was “necessary and urgent” because the West had “crossed all lines” by providing sophisticated weapons to Ukraine.
The speech was an apparent attempt to reassert his authority over an increasingly chaotic war that has undermined his leadership both at home and on the global stage. It also escalated Russia’s tense showdown with Western nations that have bolstered Ukraine with weapons, money and intelligence that have contributed to Ukraine’s recent successes in reclaiming swaths of territory in the northeast.
Putin accused the US and Europe of engaging in “nuclear blackmail” against his country and warned that Russia had “lots of weapons” of its own. “To those who allow themselves such statements about Russia, I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and some components are more modern than those of the Nato countries,” he said.
Putin also reaffirmed his support for referendums hastily announced on Tuesday that have set the stage for him to declare that occupied Ukrainian territory has become part of Russia. That annexation could potentially come as soon as next week.
Pro-Kremlin analysts and officials have said that at that point, any further Ukrainian military action on those territories could be considered an attack on Russia itself. Putin did not spell that out, but warned that he was ready to use all of the weapons in Russia’s arsenal to protect what the Kremlin considered Russian territory. “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” he said. “This is not a bluff.” 
(New York Times News Service)

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