Vladimir Putin mobilizes 300,000 reservists for Ukraine fight

Update Vladimir Putin mobilizes 300,000 reservists for Ukraine fight
President Vladimir Putin’s announcement comes amid planned referendums in Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine. (Russian Presidential Press Service via AP)
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Updated 21 September 2022

Vladimir Putin mobilizes 300,000 reservists for Ukraine fight

Vladimir Putin mobilizes 300,000 reservists for Ukraine fight
  • It is Russia’s first such mobilization since the second World War
  • EU spokesman: ‘This is just another proof of Putin that he is not interested in peace’

LONDON: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday called up 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine and said Moscow would respond with the might of all its vast arsenal if the West pursued what he called its “nuclear blackmail” over the conflict there.

It was Russia’s first such mobilization since the second World War and signified a major escalation of the war, now in its seventh month.

It followed recent setbacks for Russian forces, who have been driven from areas they had captured in northeast Ukraine in a Ukrainian counter-offensive this month and are bogged down in the south.

In a televised address to the Russian nation, Putin said: “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all available means to protect our people — this is not a bluff.”

Russia had “lots of weapons to reply,” he said.

Russia’s defense minister said the partial mobilization would see 300,000 reservists called up and would apply to those with previous military experience.

Although Russia has been involved in a number of conflicts since World War Two, this was the first such call-up since then. The Soviet Union’s long war in Afghanistan involved conscripts.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 5,937 Russian soldiers had been killed since the start of the conflict.

The United States said last month it believed between 70,000 and 80,000 Russian personnel had been killed or wounded, and in July estimated Russia’s death toll at around 15,000.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the Russian mobilization was a predictable step that would prove extremely unpopular, and it underscored that the war was not going according to Moscow’s plan.

“Absolutely predictable appeal, which looks more like an attempt to justify their own failure,” Podolyak said. “The war is clearly not going according to Russia’s scenario.”

Before Putin’s address, world leaders meeting at the United Nations in New York denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and plans for four occupied regions to hold referendums in the coming days on joining Russia.

In an apparently coordinated move, pro-Russian regional leaders on Tuesday announced referendums for Sept. 23-27 in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, representing around 15 percent of Ukrainian territory.

Russia already considers Luhansk and Donetsk, which together make up the Donbas region that Moscow partially occupied in 2014, to be independent states. Ukraine and the West consider all parts of Ukraine held by Russian forces to be illegally occupied.

Russia now holds about 60 percent of Donetsk and had captured nearly all of Luhansk by July after slow advances during months of intense fighting.

Those gains are now under threat after Russian forces were driven from neighboring Kharkiv province this month, losing control of their main supply lines for much of the Donetsk and Luhansk frontlines.

In his address, Putin said the partial mobilization of its 2 million-strong military reservists was to defend Russia and its territories. The West did not want peace in Ukraine, he said.

He said Washington, London, Brussels were pushing Kyiv to “transfer military operations to our territory” with the aim of the “complete plunder our country.”

Ukraine’s military has sporadically struck targets inside Russia throughout the conflict, using long-range weapons supplied by the West.

“Nuclear blackmail has also been used,” Putin said, citing Ukraine’s Zaporozhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe. Both Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of endangering the plant in the fighting.

He accused officials of NATO countries of making statements about “the possibility and admissibility of using weapons of mass destruction against Russia — nuclear weapons.”

“To those who allow themselves such statements regarding Russia, I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and in some components more modern than those of the NATO countries.”

Putin restated his aim was to “liberate” the Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, and said most people there did not want to return to what he called the “yoke” of Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, speaking to the UN General Assembly in New York, said Putin will only give up his “imperial ambitions” if he recognized he cannot win the war.

“This is why we will not accept any peace dictated by Russia and this is why Ukraine must be able to fend off Russia’s attack,” Scholz said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s move to partially mobilize troops showed his “desperation” at Moscow’s military failings in Ukraine, an EU spokesman said Wednesday.

“This is just another proof of Putin that he is not interested in peace, that he’s interested in escalating his war of aggression,” said EU spokesman Peter Stano.

“This is also yet another sign of his desperation with how his aggression is going against Ukraine.”

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said the mobilization was “further proof that Russia is the sole aggressor.”

“It is needed to help Ukraine, and in our own interest, we must continue with it,” he said.

British defense minister Ben Wallace said the mobilization was an admission by Putin that “his invasion is failing.”

US ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said Russia had shown weakness by announcing the mobilization of reserves and setting out the referenda in the Russian-occupied territories.

China’s foreign ministry urged all parties to engage in dialogue and consultation and find a way to address the security concerns of all parties.

Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears

Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears
Updated 10 sec ago

Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears

Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso: Gunfire rang out early Friday in Burkina Faso’s capital and the state broadcaster went off the air, sparking fears of a mutiny nine months after a military coup d’etat overthrew the country’s president.
It was not immediately known where Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba was in the West African country. He had given a speech the day before in Djibo, in the north of Burkina Faso.
Last week, Damiba had traveled to New York where he addressed the UN General Assembly as the country’s coup leader-turned-president.

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital
Updated 30 September 2022

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital
  • Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck an educational center

KABUL: A suicide bombing at a learning center in the Afghan capital Kabul killed at least 19 people on Friday morning, police spokesman Khalid Zadran said.
“Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck at this educational center. Unfortunately, 19 people have been martyred and 27 others wounded,” Zadran said.
The blast happened in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, a predominantly Shiite Muslim area in western Kabul home to the minority Hazara community, the scene of some of Afghanistan’s most deadly attacks.
“An educational center called ‘Kaj’ has been attacked, which unfortunately has caused deaths and injuries,” interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafy Takor tweeted.
“Attacking civilian targets proves the enemy’s inhuman cruelty and lack of moral standards.”
Videos posted online and photos published by local media showed bloodied victims being carried away from the scene.
The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan last year brought an end of the two-decade war and a significant reduction in violence, but security has begun to deteriorate in recent months under the hard-line Islamists.
Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazaras have faced persecution for decades, with the Taliban accused of abuses against the group when they first ruled from 1996 to 2001 and picking up again after they swept to power last year.
They are also the frequent target of attacks by the Taliban’s enemy the Daesh group. Both consider them heretics.
Countless attacks have devastated the area, with many targeting children, women and schools.
Last year, before the return of the Taliban, at least 85 people — mainly girl students — were killed and about 300 wounded when three bombs exploded near their school in Dasht-e-Barchi.
No group claimed responsibility, but a year earlier Daesh claimed a suicide attack on an educational center in the same area that killed 24, including students.
In May 2020, the group was blamed for a bloody gun attack on a maternity ward of a hospital in the neighborhood that killed 25 people, including new mothers.
Just months ago in April two deadly bomb blasts at separate education centers in the area killed six people and wounded at least 20 others.
Education is a flashpoint issue in Afghanistan, with the Taliban blocking many girls from returning to secondary school education, while Daesh also stand against the education of women and girls.

Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry

Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry
Updated 30 September 2022

Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry

Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry
  • The 10,600-ton Yu Shan is the latest in Taiwan’s ambitious program to modernize its armed forces

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan: Taiwan’s navy took delivery on Friday of a new, domestically made amphibious warfare ship that can be used to land troops and bolster supply lines to vulnerable islands, part of President Tsai Ing-wen’s defense self-sufficiency push.
The 10,600-ton Yu Shan, named after Taiwan’s tallest mountain, is the latest development in Tsai’s ambitious program to modernize the armed forces amid increased pressure from China, which claims the island as its own.
Speaking at the delivery ceremony in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, Tsai said the ship was a testament to Taiwan’s efforts to boost production of its own warships and achieve the goal of “national defense autonomy.”
“When it comes to China’s military threats, only by strengthening our self-defense capabilities can there be true peace,” she said. “It is our constant policy and determination to implement national defense autonomy so that the military has the best equipment to defend the country.”
China carried out war games near Taiwan last month to show its anger at a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Chinese military activity has continued though at a much-reduced tempo.
Built by state-backed CSBC Corporation Taiwan, the ship is armed with a cannon for use against air and surface targets, anti-aircraft missiles and rapid-fire Phalanx close-in anti-aircraft and anti-missile guns.
CSBC Chairman Cheng Wen-lung said as well as being an amphibious warfare vessel, with space for landing craft and helicopters, it will assume the “main transport role” for the South China Sea and offshore Taiwanese islands that lie close to the Chinese coast, long considered easy targets for China in the event of war.
Though the United States is Taiwan’s most important international arms supplier, Tsai has bolstered the domestic arms industry to try to make Taiwan as self-sufficient as possible.
Although Taiwan’s air force has benefited from big-ticket items such as new and upgraded F-16s, the navy is another of Tsai’s focuses, with submarines in production and a launch in 2020 of the first of a fleet of highly maneuverable stealth corvettes.

Putin to host Kremlin ceremony annexing parts of Ukraine

Putin to host Kremlin ceremony annexing parts of Ukraine
Updated 30 September 2022

Putin to host Kremlin ceremony annexing parts of Ukraine

Putin to host Kremlin ceremony annexing parts of Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to host a Kremlin ceremony on Friday annexing four regions of Ukraine, while his Ukrainian counterpart said Putin would have to be stopped for Russia to avoid the most damaging consequences of the war.
There was a warning too from United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, who said the planned annexations were a “dangerous escalation” and jeopardize prospects for peace.
Putin has doubled down on the invasion he ordered in February despite suffering a major reversal on the battlefield this month and discontent in Russia over a widely criticized “partial mobilization” of thousands more men to fight in Ukraine. Russia calls the war in Ukraine a “special operation.”
“The cost of one person in Russia wanting to continue this war is that Russian society will be left without a normal economy, a worthwhile life, or any respect for humanitarian values,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Thursday evening address.
“It can still be stopped. But to stop it we have to stop that person in Russia who wants war more than life. Your lives, citizens of Russia,” said Zelensky, who earlier spoke of Ukraine delivering a “very harsh” reaction to Russian recognition of so-called referendum results.
Moscow plans annexation of eastern and southern provinces after what Ukraine and Western countries said were sham votes staged at gunpoint in Russian-occupied areas of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. The territory Russia controls amounts to more than 90,000 square km, or about 15 percent of Ukraine’s total area — equal to the size of Hungary or Portugal.
Putin took the intermediary step of signing decrees on Thursday paving the way for occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be formally annexed into Russia. The decrees were made public by the Kremlin.
Zelensky promised a strong response to the annexations and summoned his defense and security chiefs for an emergency meeting on Friday where “fundamental decisions” will be taken, an official said.

On the eve of the planned ceremony in the Georgievsky Hall of the Great Kremlin Palace and a concert in Red Square, Putin said that “all mistakes” made in a call-up announced last week should be corrected, his first public acknowledgment that it had not gone smoothly.
Thousands of men have fled Russia to avoid a draft that was billed as enlisting those with military experience and required specialities but has often appeared oblivious to individuals’ service record, health, student status or even age.
Russia says the referendums, ostensibly asking people in the four regions whether they wanted to be part of Russia, were genuine and showed public support.
At Friday’s event, Putin will give a speech, meet leaders of the self-styled Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) as well as the Russian-installed leaders of the parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia that Russian forces occupy.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not say whether Putin would attend the Red Square concert, as he did a similar event in 2014 after Russia proclaimed it had annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.
A stage has been set up on the Moscow square with giant video screens and billboards proclaiming the four areas part of Russia.
“Any decision to proceed with the annexation ... would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned,” United Nations Secretary General Guterres told reporters.
US President Joe Biden said the United States would never recognize Russia’s claims on Ukraine’s territory, denouncing the referendums. “The results were manufactured in Moscow,” Biden said at a conference of Pacific Island leaders on Thursday.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan pressed Putin in a call to take steps to reduce tensions in Ukraine.

Russian government officials have said that the four regions will fall under Moscow’s nuclear umbrella once they have been formally incorporated into Russia. Putin has said he could use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory if necessary.
Washington and the European Union are set to impose additional sanctions on Russia over the annexation plan, and even some of Russia’s close traditional allies, such as Serbia and Kazakhstan, say they will not recognize the move.
What Russia is billing as a celebration comes after Moscow has faced its worst setbacks of the seven-month-old war, with its forces routed in Ukraine’s northeast Kharkiv region.
Heavy fighting continues in the four disputed regions, particularly Donetsk and Luhansk.
“Our situation (in Luhansk region) is more difficult than in the Kharkiv region. There is no effect of surprise here,” Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Thursday. “They (the Armed Forces of Ukraine) are advancing. And I hope we will receive very positive news in the near future.”
Some military experts say Kyiv is poised to deliver another major defeat, gradually encircling the town of Lyman, Russia’s main remaining bastion in the northern part of Donetsk province.
“The most difficult area for us remains (Lyman). Allied forces are holding their ground. And given that reinforcements will be coming, I believe we will make a breakthrough there,” Denis Pushilin, leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, said on Telegram.

Late Sultan’s heirs ask Dutch court to enforce $15bn award against Malaysia

Late Sultan’s heirs ask Dutch court to enforce $15bn award against Malaysia
Updated 30 September 2022

Late Sultan’s heirs ask Dutch court to enforce $15bn award against Malaysia

Late Sultan’s heirs ask Dutch court to enforce $15bn award against Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Heirs of a late Southeast Asian sultan filed a request in a Dutch court on Thursday to recognize and enforce a $15 billion arbitration award granted to them against Malaysia’s government, their lawyer said.

The petition was filed in The Hague Court of Appeal, said lawyer Paul Cohen, a lead co-counsel for the sultan’s heirs from British law firm 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square.

“This filing in the Netherlands will soon be followed by other enforcement actions, of varying types, in multiple jurisdictions. This may include immediate, direct attachment of specific Malaysian assets in The Netherlands and elsewhere,” Cohen said.

Malaysia’s government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the petition.

Reuters was unable to immediately verify the filings with Dutch court authorities.

A French arbitration court in February ordered Malaysia to pay the $15 billion sum to the descendents of the last Sultan of Sulu to settle a dispute over a colonial-era land deal.

Malaysia has obtained a stay on the ruling pending an appeal, but the award remains enforceable outside France under a United Nations treaty on international arbitration.

Malaysia has said it did not recognize the heirs’ claim and would take all steps to uphold the country’s sovereignty.