- The threat of nuclear weapons is growing, but ‘we are not crazy’ – Putin
- Russia fired over 1,000 times at Ukraine’s power grid – report
LONDON/KYIV, December 8 /BTA/ Russian President Vladimir Putin has admitted that his army can fight in Ukraine for a long time, but for now there will be no second call-up of soldiers.
Putin has rarely spoken about the length of a war he launched more than nine months ago, but he told loyalists in a televised meeting on Wednesday that it could go on for some time.
“It can be a long process,” he said.
Russia has been forced to make a series of significant retreats in the face of Ukrainian counter-offensives, led by growing stockpiles of Western weapons, in the east and south since July.
Russia launched what it called a “special military operation” in February, saying Ukraine’s deepening ties to the West posed a security threat. Ukraine and its allies say the invasion amounts to an imperialist land grab.
In his comments, Putin said the risk of nuclear war was growing, but Russia would not recklessly threaten to use such weapons.
“We are not crazy, we realize what nuclear weapons are,” Putin said. “We have these means in a more advanced and modern form than any other nuclear power … But we have no intention of running around the world brandishing this weapon like a razor.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview published Thursday that the risk of Putin using nuclear weapons had decreased in response to international pressure.
About 150,000 of the 300,000 reservists called up in September and October were deployed in Ukraine, 77,000 in combat units, Putin said. The remaining 150,000 were still in the training centers.
“Under these conditions, talking about any additional mobilization measures simply does not make sense,” Putin said.
Russia’s economy has weathered the short-term slump caused by the partial mobilization order, but the disinflationary impact it had in reducing consumer demand has virtually disappeared, the central bank said on Wednesday.
Despite recent battlefield setbacks, including the loss of Kherson, the only capital of a Ukrainian province captured by Russia, Putin said he had no regrets about starting a war that has become Europe’s most devastating since World War II.
He said Russia had achieved a “significant result” in acquiring “new territories” – a reference to the annexation of four partially occupied regions in September, which Ukraine and most UN members condemned as illegal.
Russian shelling killed 10 people and wounded many in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kurakhove on Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
Fighting was fierce around the nearby town of Bakhmut.
“The enemy has become very active recently, they are on the offensive, their aviation is more active, there are continuous aerial reconnaissance missions,” said a commander of a Ukrainian unit using the fighting name Bandera.
“All day yesterday they shelled our positions, all day their drones were in the air.
Russian forces have fired more than 1,000 rockets and projectiles at Ukraine’s power grid, which is still operational despite severe damage, the Interfax Ukraine news agency reported on Wednesday, citing the CEO of grid operator Ukrenergo.
Eight recent waves of Russian airstrikes on critical infrastructure have severely damaged the grid and led to emergency and planned outages across the country, including in the capital, Kiev, a city of three million.
Mayor Vitali Klitschko has warned of an “apocalypse” scenario without electricity, running water or heating this winter if Russian airstrikes on infrastructure continue. He said there is no need for residents to evacuate now, although they should be prepared to do so.
Kiev could be left without central heating at a time when temperatures could drop to -15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit), Klitschko said in an interview with Reuters.
PLAYING ON THE BELARUS MAP?
Russia’s ally Belarus said it was moving troops and military equipment to counter what it called a terrorist threat, amid signs that Moscow may be pressuring Minsk to open a new front in Ukraine.
President Alexander Lukashenko, who relied on Russian troops to quell a popular uprising two years ago, has prevented his own army from joining the war in Ukraine. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu flew unannounced to the capital Minsk on Saturday and he and his Belarusian counterpart Viktor Khrenin signed amendments to the security cooperation agreement without disclosing the new terms.
On Wednesday, the Belarusian Security Council, quoted by state news agency Belta, said troops and equipment would be moved into the country in the next two days, with mock weapons used for training. He did not provide details on the number of troops or types of equipment that would be moved.
Thousands of Russian troops have been stationed in Belarus since October, Ukraine says, and Belarusian authorities have increasingly spoken of a “terrorism” threat from guerrillas operating across the border.
Reports from Reuters bureaus; writing by Grant McCool; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Robert Birsel
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