Putin ‘ups the ante’

Putin ups the ante

Vladimir Putin decreed, during a long-awaited speech, the partial mobilization of 300,000 reservists and said he was ready to use ” all means » available for « protect ” Russia. This announcement comes in a context of retreat of the Russian army, and while referendums of annexation will be organized in the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia. Interview with Nicolas Tenzer, director of the online journal Desk Russia and teacher at Sciences Po Paris.

RFI: Vladimir Poutine announces a partial military mobilization. Is this the sign of an emergency situation for the Russian army in Ukraine?

Nicholas Tenzer : We have already seen this for several weeks and even since the start of operations, the Russian army is extremely fragile. She suffered considerable defeats. She lost, presumably, more than 50,000 men. Which means, in addition, 150,000 injured. So entire units are no longer able to fight. There, she tries to do, in a way, the bottoms of the drawers. She has already picked up a number of people from prisons to turn them into improvised soldiers. In psychiatric hospitals and even people over the age of 50, not necessarily very fit to fight. And there, indeed, there is this partial mobilization, quite simply because there are no more soldiers, there is no more army. And we also know that with this partial mobilization, that won’t solve the problem because the soldiers still have to be trained and trained. And that, the Russian army, today is just as incapable of doing it.

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If these four regions are annexed in the days or weeks to come, what will this concretely change on the ground in Ukraine? We imagine that any attack on the Donbass, for example, will be considered an attack on Russian territory…

Concretely, it does not change anything because they are not legally annexed so legally it is worth absolutely nothing. Secondly, it may be the Kremlin narrative that now says that it is the national territory that is sanctuary and that this may lead to a massive response. We saw all the same, about a month ago, the Ukrainians strike Crimea which had been annexed in the same way, without any Russian reaction. So Putin always tries to scare everyone and up the ante. It threatens the world with a nuclear cataclysm – and it was already the case before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. Above all, you have to stop believing in your red lines and you have to make them burst, pulverize them. The subject today is how Ukraine is going to be able to reconquer all of its territory, that is to say the Donbass, the southern regions which are still occupied and Crimea. For that, you have to help him, with all the possible weapons to do so, and above all you must not let yourself be intimidated by this kind of statement.

Westerners strongly denounced these referendums yesterday at the UN platform. Westerners and even Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, one of the mediators of this conflict who speaks both in kyiv and in Moscow. Is this a sign of Russian isolation?

Russia seems more and more isolated. We even saw it at the Samarkand summit with statements that were at the very least critical of the Indian president, even of the Chinese. We also saw, during the vote of the General Assembly of the UN, to know if Mr. Zelensky could express himself on video, which is not customary. And we have seen that most countries – even a very large majority, since there are only a few states like Syria or Eritrea that voted against Zelensky speaking – finally accepted, including the former republics [soviétiques] from Central Asia who are increasingly beginning to see that Moscow, first of all, is not a guarantor, but above all, is not a viable partner. So, yes, Russia is increasingly isolated and Erdogan, as we know, supports them. He still gives drones to Ukraine. No one is going to recognize these referendums, that’s obvious.