Despite Ukraine's advances, Russia says mobilisation is not on the agenda

3 minute read

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends a joint news conference of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Moscow, Russia February 18, 2022. Sputnik/Sergey Guneev/Kremlin via REUTERS

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LONDON, Sept 13 (Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Tuesday there was no discussion of a nationwide mobilisation to bolster its forces in Ukraine, despite growing pressure to do so after Russia suffered one of its worst defeats in nearly seven months of war.

"At the moment no, there is no discussion of this," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked for the second day running if Russia would mobilise its reserves after being driven out of almost all of Kharkiv region in northeast Ukraine.

On Monday, Russian media quoted Mikhail Sheremet, a State Duma deputy from the ruling United Russia party, as saying "full mobilisation" was necessary for victory.

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On Tuesday, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said in a statement on the party's website: "Most of all, we need maximum mobilisation of our strength and resources" in order to win what he called a "war" against the United States, Europe and NATO.

Russia describes its actions in Ukraine as a "special military operation", and critics who call it a war or an invasion have been prosecuted under laws passed earlier this year against discrediting the armed forces or spreading false news about them.

Asked about criticism of the military leadership by nationalist commentators who have demanded mobilisation, Peskov said it was an example of "pluralism" and that Russians as a whole continue to support President Vladimir Putin.

"Russians support the president, and this is confirmed by the mood of the people ... The people are consolidated around the decisions of the head of state," he said.

"As for other points of view, critical points of view, as long as they remain within the law, this is pluralism, but the line is very, very thin, one must be very careful here", he added.

So far Putin has not resorted to mobilising Russia's reserves, who number around 2 million men with military service within the past five years.

To do so would constitute an admission that what he has cast as a limited military mission is in fact a full-scale war that is going badly for Russia.

Military commentators ordinarily supportive of the campaign reacted with fury after Russia's Defence Ministry on Saturday said it was abandoning the Kharkiv region in a "regrouping" after the lightning Ukrainian counteroffensive last week. Many have suggested for months that only a full-scale nationwide mobilisation could rectify the situation.

On Sept. 2, before the Ukrainian counteroffensive began, Igor Girkin, a former Russian security services officer who led the original separatist insurgency in east Ukraine in 2014, wrote on Telegram that mobilisation is Russia's "last chance" at victory in Ukraine.

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Reporting by Reuters; editing by Mark Trevelyan

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