KYIV, UKRAINE (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that the mobilization of military resources he ordered to build up his country’s forces in Ukraine is expected to be completed in two weeks, a milestone that will allow him to to end the unwanted call as well. The Kremlin is trying to counter Ukraine’s gains on the battlefield.
After attending a meeting of Asian and Eastern European leaders in Kazakhstan, Putin told reporters that he had no regrets about starting a conflict with Russia’s neighbor and that when he sent troops to the country about eight months ago, “it was not to make fun of Ukraine.”
“What is happening today, to put it mildly, is unpleasant,” he said. “But we would have had it all a little later, only in worse circumstances for us, that’s all. So my actions are right and timely.”
In his comments on the military mobilization, Putin said the call he ordered last month enrolled 222,000 of the 300,000 reservists initially targeted by Russia’s defense ministry. According to him, a total of 33,000 of them are already in the military units and 16,000 are participating in wars.
The call, made by Putin as his forces were decimated by Ukraine’s retaliatory offensive in a stunning blow to Moscow’s military reputation, sparked outrage in Russia, where almost all men under the age of 65 serve as reservists. are registered.
Meanwhile, Putin’s own supporters are criticizing the Kremlin’s handling of the war and increasing pressure on him to turn the tide in Russia’s favor.
Although Putin and other senior officials said the mobilization would affect about 300,000 people, the president’s executive order did not specify a specific number to be signed for the project. Russian media estimate that their real number is up to 1.2 million reservists.
Putin initially described the mobilization as “partial” and said only those with combat or service experience would be drafted. Following his order, tens of thousands of people left Russia. The Russian leader then admitted that men who lack relevant experience or are medically unfit for service have been drafted into active service.
Since then, there have been reports of soldiers being deployed to the front lines in Ukraine with little training and inadequate equipment. Several conscripts have been reported killed in the fighting in Ukraine this week, days after being drafted.
Putin said all active duty recruits must undergo proper training and that he would instruct Russia’s Security Council to “investigate how mobilized citizens are trained.”
Before launching the attack on February 24, Putin questioned Ukraine’s right to exist as a sovereign state and presented the country as part of historic Russia. In response to this question on Friday, he repeated his claim that Russia is ready for peace talks and that the Kyiv government is to blame for the lack of talks.
“We reached a certain agreement even in Istanbul (spring),” Putin said, thanking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his mediation efforts. “These agreements were actually almost initialized. However, as soon as the (Russian) forces left Kyiv, the Kyiv authorities immediately lost the will to negotiate.”
Ukraine has officially ruled out any possibility of talks with Putin, who last month illegally annexed Ukraine’s Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Luhansk regions as Russian territory, which Kyiv and the West denounced as a sham.
While its army continues its resistance operations in the occupied east and south of the country, the momentum of the war has shifted to Ukraine. The head of Kherson region, who is based in Moscow, asked the Kremlin on Thursday to organize the evacuation of four cities, citing continuous shelling by Ukrainian forces.
Russia has promised free housing to residents of Kherson who want to evacuate to Russia, a sign that the war on the southern front has worried the Kremlin.
Vladimir Saldo, the head of the administration of the designated Moscow region, said that it was decided that the residents of Kherson will go to Rostov, Krasnodar and Stavropol regions of Russia, as well as to the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.
“We, residents of Kherson region, certainly know that Russia will not abandon itself and that Russia will always lend a helping hand,” said Saldo.
Russia has described the movement of Ukrainians to Russia or Russian-controlled territory as voluntary, but in many cases these are the only evacuation routes for residents of occupied territories.
There have been reports that some Ukrainians have been forcibly deported to “filter camps” in harsh conditions. In addition, it found that Russian authorities had deported thousands of Ukrainian children living in foster families or institutions to be raised as Russians.
The announcement of the evacuation was made while the Ukrainian forces entered the Kherson region at a slower pace compared to a few weeks ago. The Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine said on Thursday evening that the Ukrainian forces reported the recapture of 75 settlements in the area in the past month.
A similar campaign in eastern Ukraine resulted in most of Kharkiv region and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions returning to Ukrainian control, the ministry said.
General Valery Zaluzhnyi, the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, vowed on Friday “to bring us back.”
Zaluzhnyi said in his video message: “No one and nothing can stop us. We have destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the Russian army.”
Friday was Defense Day in Ukraine, but the celebrations were muted due to the war. For a fifth day, Russia continued to shut down critical infrastructure it began Monday in response to a car bomb attack on a key bridge linking Russia with annexed Crimea.
The explosion temporarily halted rail and road traffic on the 12-mile-long Kerch Bridge and disrupted a vital supply route for Kremlin forces. The Federal Security Service of Russia said on Wednesday that it had identified 12 suspects, citizens of Armenia, Russia and Ukraine.
Russia’s retaliatory strikes, which Ukrainian officials say have killed dozens of Ukrainians this week, killed at least nine more civilians between Thursday and Friday, Ukraine’s president’s office said. The governor of the region Vitaly Kim said that among the victims there is an 11-year-old child and 6 other people who died after a missile attack in the city of Nikolayev, where a residential building was destroyed.
On Friday, Russian forces launched missile attacks on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, and in the Zaporizhzhia region, home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. The UN nuclear watchdog has repeatedly warned that an explosion at or near the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant could lead to catastrophic radiation.
Putin promised that if Ukraine or its allies attack Russian territory, including the annexed regions of Ukraine. Russian authorities reported on Friday that Ukrainian shelling blew up an ammunition depot in Russia’s Belgorod region on the border with Ukraine.
According to the Investigative Committee of Russia, an unknown number of people were killed and injured in this incident. According to unconfirmed media reports, three officers of the Russian National Guard were killed and more than 10 were injured in this incident.
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