Russian President Vladimir Putin doubled down on the credibility of his threats to use nuclear weapons for Russia’s self-defense in a speech Wednesday morning, in addition to calling up hundreds of thousands of additional troops for battle.
In the largest escalation since Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine in February, Putin made good on a partial mobilization for 300,000 reserve and special operations personnel in an executive order signed Wednesday. He issued veiled threats of nuclear strikes in response to the “aggressive policy of Western elites” to continue provoking Russia on the 1000-km line of contact in Ukraine and providing the Ukrainian army with weapons and supplies.
“In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff,” he said.
Putin’s speech aired less than 24 hours after the Russian-installed leaders in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in Ukraine’s south, as well as the two sympathetic presidents in the eastern Donbas region, announced plans to hold referendums on acceding to the Russian Federation later in September.