He says he is not bluffing. Vladimir Putin is prepared to push the situation in Ukraine to the limit and even threatens again with the possibility of nuclear weapons and accuses the West of crossing all lines and supplying Kiev with weapons to attack Crimea and other Russian regions. Russia is the invader and Ukraine has been resisting - for more than six months now - on the defensive in order not to lose either its territory or its sovereignty.
"I think it is necessary to support the proposal of the Ministry of Defence and the General Headquarters and to carry out a partial mobilisation in Russia, only those citizens who are currently in reserve and those who have studied in the army and have the relevant experience will be recruited. I have already signed the decree on partial mobilisation and it will be sent to the chambers of the Federal Assembly, the Federation Council and the State Duma," the Russian dictator said.
In a televised message on Wednesday (21 September), Putin said all conscripted citizens will be trained and receive the same treatment and status as military personnel, along with pay and guarantees.
Since last August he himself signed another decree to draft 137,000 reservists from January 2023; this time, conscription will be imminent and will draft 300,000 people and include other measures befitting a wartime state.
Arms companies will be obliged to rapidly increase their production; the inputs necessary for the manufacture of weapons will be supplied by the Kremlin, as it will intervene in those companies that produce such inputs in order to send them primarily for the production of weapons. All that remains is for another decree to implement martial law and a declaration of emergency similar to a state of emergency with a curfew, something that is currently only on the table.
"Dear friends, in its aggressive anti-Russian policy, the West has crossed all lines, we constantly hear threats against Russia, against our people; some irresponsible politicians in the West are talking about supplying Ukraine with long-range weapons to attack Crimea and other Russian cities, and there are also terrorist attacks with the use of Western weapons in the Belgorod and Kursk provinces with the use of satellites, drones and other equipment," Putin said with his hands outstretched on his desk.
The Kremlin ruler - in power for more than two decades and eligible for re-election until 2036 - accused NATO of conducting intelligence work in southern Russia and singled out Washington and Brussels for pushing Kiev to attack Russia in order to defeat it on the battlefield.
Scowling Putin was blunt in front of the cameras: "There are statements by high-ranking NATO representatives about the possibility of using against Russia weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons, those who indulge in such statements would like to remind that our country itself has different weapons and some of them are more advanced than NATO weapons; to defend our people and peace in our country, we will use all means at our disposal".
He vehemently asserted that Russia's destiny has always been to stop those seeking world domination who "threaten to tear our homeland apart" and now "we will do the same".
In recent days the Ukrainian army has made progress in liberating and recapturing some Russian-occupied territories, and in Crimea it shelled a Russian military unit in Maiskoe and intends to blow up the Kerch bridge.
Meanwhile, the pro-Russians, supported by the Kremlin, announced the holding of referendums on accession to Russia on 4 November in the provinces of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporiyia; this city has the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and the third largest in the world with an impressive electricity generation capacity of 1 gigawatt for each of its six reactors.
Since 4 March, it has been occupied by Russian troops and has been the scene of battles and bombings in the surrounding area that have raised the alarm about the possibility of a nuclear disaster that would be worse than Chernobyl.
Ukraine wants to take back Zaporiyia and liberate it from the Russians and the Kremlin intends through the referendums on accession to Russia to appropriate 25% of Ukrainian territory and take over these important coastal provinces with docks, ferries, water industries, mining and metallurgy, shipyards, the fishing industry, the nuclear power plant and control of most export ships and their containers. It would come to dominate the outlet of the Sea of Azov and part of the Black Sea and leave Kiev with a small coastline and take away navigation of the Dnieper River.
The recapture of twenty settlements in Kharkiv by Ukrainian troops has ultimately precipitated the accession referenda to be held between 23 and 27 September. Putin wants to deploy newly reinstated reservists there to defend these territories as part of Russia once the atrocity of the fake plebiscites is over. The same strategy as in Crimea in 2014.
In José María Gil Garre's opinion, Russia is facing a difficult situation and Putin is under great pressure because he has many discontented sectors both at home and abroad.
"In this invasion, Russia is suffering very serious losses, not only of weapons but also of human lives, it has lost many thousands of soldiers; furthermore, we have a country that is a giant with feet of clay and a war that drags on is extremely costly to mobilise this number of soldiers because it requires significant amounts of money that Putin simply does not have", in the words of the director of the International Security Observatory.
For José Luis Martín Ovejero, an expert in non-verbal communication, after comparing the images of 23 February when Putin announced that he would begin the invasion of Ukraine with those of 21 September, the date of the announcement of the decree of the reservists and the nuclear threats, we see a Putin who is much more defensive, with one arm on a barrier, as if he were protecting "something that conveys personal insecurity".
"The change is radical. He wants to convey that he is doing what others propose and he supports it. On the one hand, he wants people to think that he is not alone, that he is not an isolated leader, but that it is others who are seeking to take a step forward in the conflict; and on the other, to dilute responsibilities for the result of the decision", writes Martín Ovejero.
For the body language analyst, there is a radical change in Putin: "The communication of the invasion is that of a person who is sure of his decision and who takes responsibility for it; the communication of the mobilisation reflects the forward flight of a more insecure person, with a lot of inner tension and who tries to give the image of a team".
Symptom of weakness
For the US and its allies, Putin's new decision is just a sign of weakness; he knows he is losing the war. The Pentagon estimates between 70,000 and 80,000 casualties among the troops, including dead and wounded, and the destruction of military equipment, which the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence puts at 1,924 tanks; 4,243 combat vehicles; 1,036 artillery units; 266 bomb-dropping systems; 147 air defence systems; 234 military jets; 199 helicopters; 819 drones; 196 cruise missiles; 15 warships; 3,160 tanks and 99 special equipment units.
If the invasion of Ukraine has exposed anything, it is the infallible US spying system that is three steps ahead of Putin's moves. Since December 2021 it has warned of the Kremlin's intention to invade Ukraine and has also managed to protect the Ukrainian president, Volodymir Zelensky, from assassination attempts by the Wagner Group and has helped with its military intelligence to direct Ukrainian troops towards which targets to counterattack.
And he has once again pre-empted Putin's decree announcement: four days earlier on CBS's 60 Minutes, President Joe Biden advised the Russian president not to use "nuclear or chemical weapons" in Ukraine.
"No, no, don't do it. It will change the face of war as never before since World War II. There will be consequences, and the response will depend on the scope of what they do," the White House occupant said.
Washington knows the moves with premeditated anticipation, a reflection of its military intelligence and espionage capabilities that have been consolidated since the end of World War II.
Coinciding with Putin's announcement - 21 September - in New York, the 77th Assembly of the United Nations is a hive of world leaders who have staked out their positions on the issue.
"This is a war of aggression led by an autocrat and we are entering a new, much more critical phase of the war, which is when the aggressor realises that he is losing the battle", according to the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez.
Biden, who has taken to the UN lectern, condemned the sham referendum to annex part of Ukraine and said it was a clear violation of the UN Charter.
"These are horrendous acts, Putin says Russia has been threatened but no one has threatened Russia, no one other than Russia sought conflict, indeed we warned of what was coming and we did a lot to prevent it," he said.
The US president condemned Russian atrocities leaving a long trail of destruction of schools, hospitals, railway stations and war crimes, mass graves, bound and tortured bodies.
"This war is to extinguish Ukraine's right to exist as a state as simple as that and Ukraine's right to exist as a people... whatever our beliefs we should shudder at that. A total of 141 countries at the UN voted against the war, condemned it," he recalled.
The dignitary reiterated that more than 40 countries are helping Ukraine in various ways with money, weapons, material support and humanitarian aid. "A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought".
Russia, he insisted, must be held accountable for its atrocities and war crimes because if nations can pursue their imperialist ambitions without consequences it puts everything this institution stands for at risk. "This year the world has been put to the test" and of course "we want the peace" that only Russia stands in the way.
At the same event, Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany, pointed out that Putin will abandon his imperialist ambitions if he realises that he cannot win the war and assessed Putin's new decision as only a symptom of weakness.
For French leader Emmanuel Macron, Putin cannot do what he is doing even under false referendums in territories he has previously bombed and then occupied.
Andrzej Duda, President of Poland, brought up the 3 million Ukrainians living in his country and condemned Putin's actions to boycott peace.
At the UN event, Japan's representative called for a reformulation of Security Council seating to prevent the Russian veto from prevailing, and China's UN diplomat stated that his country's position is in favour of a ceasefire and negotiations between the parties with the international community as a witness.
From the military point of view, how does one analyse Putin's assertion of nuclear weapons? Just another threat? In the opinion of Raúl González, an expert at the Minerva Institute, there are very strong internal pressures on Putin.
"I don't think it's a threat, they can act for various reasons and Putin is under pressure politically, but not as we see it from Europe to end the war; his voters and pro-Russian groups are asking him to be more forceful, we have to take into account that the pro-Russians are very nationalist and want him to be more forceful," he said.