Today, September 21, Putin announced he will escalate his “special military operation” into outright war against Ukraine. In a video address, he decried the deployment of 300,000 Russian reservists. He also railed against NATO for providing weapons to Ukraine to defend itself and reminded the world of their nuclear weapons capabilities should the West continue to thwart the invasion.
This move comes in the face of humiliating losses after Kyiv stepped up their offensive tactics, driving Russian troops back and regaining several thousand kilometers in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions to the north and east. What Ukrainian liberators saw in the wake of Russian occupation was undeniable evidence of mass graves and torture, with the occupiers now under investigation for war crimes by the the ICC.
Moscow also announced they would be seeking to hold referendums in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya in order to annex the regions into Russia. The goal of these sham referendums is to try and legitimize these states as Russian so that any military action within them would count as an attack on Russia itself. Keep in mind, Zaporizhzhya contains the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, which Russians have been holding hostage as a powder keg in this conflict.
This new act of aggression is not popular within Russia. Plane tickets out of the country are sold out, many of them being bought by young men in fear of being drafted into a useless and deadly war which has already killed tens of thousands. To combat this lack of morale, the Russian State Duma recently passed harsh laws on voluntary surrender, which is now punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Putin’s announcement marks a turning point in this invasion. It’s become clear that invading Ukraine was a mistake and instead putting down their weapons, Moscow is doubling down on violence. With the world against them in an unpopular war, embarrassment for Putin has become even more deadly for Ukrainians and Russians alike. We will continue to report on developments and as always, stay safe and stay informed.