Earlier on Wednesday Russian President Vladimir Putin announced what he dubbed a “partial mobilization” of national forces while vowing to use all means necessary to defend Russia and pledged to annex the territories already occupied by Russia, as we detailed, significantly raising the stakes in the seven-month-old conflict.
Various countries around the globe were quick to react, most especially China, which issued a statement within hours after the speech calling for “ceasefire through dialogue”. China has throughout the war defended in various statements Russia’s ‘legitimate’ security concerns about NATO expansion while continuing to tout close, positive ties with Moscow.
But this is perhaps the first time Beijing has so clearly and publicly pushed for a ceasefire after such a key Moscow announcement, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin calling for “a cease-fire through negotiations and solutions that answer all parties’ security concerns,” according to state-run Global Times.
“Every country’s reasonable security concerns should be valued, and all efforts conducive to resolving the crisis peacefully should be supported. China calls for dialogue and consultation to resolve the divergences,” Wang added.
While China worded its statement carefully as focusing on a solution that would advance the security concerns of “all parties” – the statements coming from other international quarters continued laying blame for the conflict squarely on Russian and on Putin.
For starters, the Ukrainian presidency’s office suggested this means Putin is in fear of losing the war: “The war is clearly not going according to Russia’s scenario and therefore required Putin to make extremely unpopular decisions to mobilize and severely restrict the rights of people,” Mykhailo Podolyak said in a statement to Reuters.
Washington was quick to blast the newly declared Kremlin-backed referendums set to take place in occupied territories of Ukraine, with US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink responding on Twitter that “Sham referenda and mobilization are signs of weakness, of Russian failure.” Further the ambassador vowed that “The United States will never recognize Russia’s claim to purportedly annexed Ukrainian territory, and we will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
And the European Union responded to the partial mobilization as follows while highlighting Putin’s “very dangerous nuclear gamble”, according to foreign policy spokesman for the European Commission, Peter Stano:
“This is just another proof that Putin is not interested in peace, that he’s interested in escalating this war of aggression.”
“This is also yet another sign of his desperation with how his aggression is going against Ukraine…he is only interested in further advancing and continuing his destructive war, which has had already so many bad consequences worldwide.”
As for the prospect of escalation, there has been evidence over the past week that Russian forces have stepped up attacks on crucial Ukrainian infrastructure. The Kremlin has maintained all along that its forces have been “holding back” – but it appears that is changing…
Here is the aftermath of these strikes.
Note that the Ingulets river is now flooding around the city of Krivoy Rog.
There is a military rational for this – making crossing the river more difficult – but it’s also a hardship for civilians. pic.twitter.com/amwYMS7GB4
— Clint Ehrlich (@ClintEhrlich) September 14, 2022
Germany’s Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck meanwhile called it “another bad and wrong step from Russia, which of course we will discuss and consult on politically regarding how to respond.” Berlin too has vowed to never recognized annexed territory.
British foreign office minister Gillian Keegan called it an obvious and very serious escalation, telling Sky News, “Clearly, it’s something that we should take very seriously because, you know, we’re not in control – I am not sure he’s in control either, really. This is obviously an escalation.”