Russia should finish calling up reservists within two weeks, President Vladimir Putin said on Friday, vowing to end a mobilization that has seen hundreds of thousands of men called up to fight in Ukraine since a large number flee the country.
Putin also said Russia had no plans “for now” to carry out more massive airstrikes like the one it carried out this week, in which it fired more than 100 long-range missiles at targets across Ukraine.
Putin ordered the mobilization three weeks ago, following Russian defeats on the battlefield. In addition, he has proclaimed the annexation of four partially occupied Ukrainian provinces and has threatened to use nuclear weapons.
The mobilization has provoked in some parts of Russia the first public criticism of the authorities since the war began.
The authorities have acknowledged that some errors were made in determining who would be summoned.
Members of ethnic minorities and residents of rural areas have complained of being recruited at higher rates than ethnic Russians and city dwellers.
In defense of the mobilization order, Putin told a news conference at the end of a summit in Kazakhstan that the front line was too long to be defended by professional soldiers alone.
The Russian president maintained that 222,000 of the planned 300,000 reservists had already been mobilized. “This work is coming to an end,” he said. “I think that in about two weeks all the mobilization activities will be over.”
Since the mobilization order was given, Russian soldiers have continued to lose ground in eastern Ukraine and also a significant area in the south.
A Western official said some of the newly mobilized Russian troops were already on the battlefield suffering casualties, and their presence was unlikely to turn the tide of the war in Moscow’s favour.
“It’s clear that they’ve been sent out with very, very limited training and very, very poor equipment, and that’s why we say it’s really unlikely that they’ll have any kind of positive impact in the short term,” he said. .
The official also suggested that Moscow did not have enough missiles to sustain attacks like this week: “Russia is rapidly depleting its supply of long-range precision munitions, particularly its air-launched cruise missiles, so this one is not It’s a campaign I can keep going indefinitely.”
INITIATIVE IN OUR HANDS
For his part, Ukrainian General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi was optimistic after his country’s rapid advances in the northeast and south in recent weeks.
“The strategic initiative is in our hands, so the main thing is not to stop,” Zaluzhnyi said after speaking by phone with NATO’s European Combined Forces Commander-in-Chief, US Gen. Christopher Cavoli.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday placed his country on what he called a heightened state of terror alert, the latest gesture by Putin’s closest international ally that hints at growing pressure to join the war.
Lukashenko has allowed Russian forces to use Belarus as a base of operations, but has so far kept his own troops out of the war. This week he announced that Russian troops would join Belarusian troops near the Ukrainian border.
Russia is trying to impose its rule over the territories it claims to have annexed, despite the fact that its troops are being pushed back.