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Rehearsals for the Victory Day parade in Yekaterinburg, April 25, 2022

Russia’s maybe-mobilization The Kremlin’s spokesman calls it ‘nonsense,’ but speculation is mounting that Putin is poised to expand the war against Ukraine

Source: Meduza
Rehearsals for the Victory Day parade in Yekaterinburg, April 25, 2022
Rehearsals for the Victory Day parade in Yekaterinburg, April 25, 2022
Eduard Kornienko / URA.RU / TASS

Vladimir Putin may announce Russia’s full military mobilization at this year’s Victory Day parade in Moscow on May 9, according to multiple state officials and media analysts in Europe and the United States. Only mobilization, in their view, would permit the Russian army to replenish its reserves and break the current stalemate in Ukraine. On May 4, however, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called this speculation “untrue” and “nonsense.” Meduza has assembled a timeline of statements made about mobilization in Russia, noting who said what and when they said it.

April 28

British Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace said in an interview with LBC radio:

I would not be surprised, and I don’t have any information about this, that he is probably going to declare on this May Day that “we are now at war with the world’s Nazis, and we need to mass-mobilize the Russian people.”

According to Wallace, the Russian president may abandon the term “special military operation” and declare a full-scale war, since he has previously said that the fighting in Ukraine is turning into a “proxy war” and that “Nazis are everywhere, basically, they are not just in Ukraine, NATO is full of Nazis.”

According to Wallace, Putin is “laying the ground for being able to say, ‘Look, this is now a war against the Nazis, and what I need is more people, I need more Russian cannon fodder.’” The defense secretary also added that the mass conscription from the reserves would be an “admission of failure” on the part of Russia’s generals, who are now engaged in covering up the army’s losses.

April 30

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry does not “rule out” mobilization in Russia. The agency’s spokesman, Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, stated at a briefing:

Whether Russia will declare full mobilization will certainly depend on the hostilities continuing in the Eastern operational zone. If the enemy fails to achieve its short-term objectives, such a scenario will be quite possible, and we do not rule it out.

May 1

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to President Zelensky’s chief of staff, stated that Russia’s mobilization would be to Kyiv’s advantage, since it would only hasten the fall of the Putin regime:

General mobilization in Russia would be a boon to Ukraine. Because it would initiate the final countdown of days remaining for Putin’s regime — a very quick countdown. This would be an already unstoppable process. The best thing that can happen is a general mobilization in Russia. This would be such a fine trump card for us to have that I don’t want to jinx it.

May 2

Kirill Budanov, the head of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate, said that Russia is preparing for mobilization. In an interview with New Voice Ukraine, he said:

Rosrezerv [Russia’s Federal Agency for State Reserves] has now begun to verify what they’ve got actually available, and it’s estimating what they could issue under mobilization orders. This is an absolutely necessary step before the start of a real mobilization.

When asked whether it was the Kremlin’s plan to win in the Donbas by May 9, the head of the Intelligence Directorate said, “This is their goal, but it’s not to be; they won’t have the time. By no means can they achieve it on time.”

May 3

In the United States, CNN also reported the possibility of the Russian authorities announcing a full mobilization on May 9. The news network cited the prior statements made by the British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, as well as the opinion of U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price, who acknowledged that there is “good reason to believe that the Russians will do everything they can to use the date in terms of their propaganda effort.”

Apart from this, CNN quoted Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who said the Kremlin is exploring news options for May 9. Carpenter also noted that the U.S. has “highly credible” intelligence indicating that Russia will try to annex the self-proclaimed republics in Donetsk and Luhansk and also create a similar “people’s republic“ in the occupied region of Kherson. “The reports state that Russia has plans to engineer referenda on joining Russia sometime in mid-May, and that Moscow is considering a similar plan for Kherson,” he said at a State Department briefing.

Meduza’s own sources corroborate this report.

May 4

Journalists question Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov about a potential mobilization in Russia, but Vladimir Putin’s spokesman calls the idea “nonsense” spread by the Western media:

Govorit Moskva [Moscow on Air]: Western publications report that, supposedly on May 9, some decision might be made about the special military operation — that even a mobilization might be announced in Russia. How would you respond to these reports? Is there anything to this?

Dmitry Peskov: No, you should disregard it. It’s not true. It’s nonsense.

СNN: Western officials have also spoken about Putin possibly declaring war on May 9. What is the likelihood that Putin will use May 9 to declare war?

Dmitry Peskov: Zero. I’ve already answered that question. It’s nonsense.

How it would happen

How ‘mobilization’ works in Russia Human rights expert Pavel Chikov explains what reservists and draftees can expect if Putin openly declares war

How it would happen

How ‘mobilization’ works in Russia Human rights expert Pavel Chikov explains what reservists and draftees can expect if Putin openly declares war

Is it really “nonsense”?

On May 2, Ruslan Leviev, the founder of the investigative group Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), told the news outlet Current Time that his team has not yet tracked any evidence of preparations for imminent mobilization. “We have not noticed any signs of full-scale unpacking at mobilization warehouses or huge quantities of equipment being moved out for potential mobilization,” Leviev said.

According to Leviev, CIT researchers do not expect a general mobilization because of the dire consequences it would have on Russia’s economy. He also points out that the Russian military already suffers from critical shortages of weapons and even uniforms. Some kind of partial mobilization, however, is plausible, says Leviev. For example, reservists from regions near the Ukrainian border could be drafted into the army, the term of service could be extended for those who are due to demobilize in May 2022, or those who have recently demobilized could return to combat.

“If some partial mobilization does happen,” explains Leviev, the Russian military could realistically find equipment and uniforms for another 200,000 men. In his view, that alone would be enough to alter the course of the war “significantly,” possibly enabling Russia to capture all of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Translated by Anna Razumnaya

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