Russia is allegedly at war not with Ukraine, but with the “collective West,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in an address on Sept. 21.
“Today, we’re fighting not only with Ukraine and the Ukrainian army,” Shoigu said.
“Over a thousand foreign mercenaries are allegedly fighting on the side of Ukraine.”
Shoigu’s claim is false. While some foreigners are fighting on the side of Ukraine, they are doing so under contract, within regular units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Their pay is in the same range as that of Ukrainian-citizen soldiers.
In contrast, Russia is itself using mercenaries in Ukraine, via its Wagner mercenary company.
Russian dictator Vladimir Putin early on Sept. 21 declared a partial mobilization in Russia and his readiness to use nuclear weapons in the event of a “threat to the territorial integrity” of Russia.
Later Shoigu announced that 300,000 reservists would be called up during the partial mobilization. He estimated Russia’s mobilization resource at almost 25 million people.
Meanwhile, Kremlin proxies in occupied Donbas “statelets” announced on Sept. 20 that they would hold referendums on joining Russia. The occupation “administrations” stated that the sham plebiscite will be held Sept. 23-27.
Kremlin-controlled puppet "authorities" in Kherson and Zaporizhzhya oblasts also announced plans to hold referendums on “uniting with Russia” on the same dates.
The statements were made shortly after a rapid counter-offensive by the defenders of Ukraine: on Sept. 14, the Ministry of Defense reported that since Sept. 6 (in the space of one week), the Armed Forces of Ukraine had liberated 388 settlements and about 8,500 square kilometers in Kharkiv Oblast alone.
Andriy Yermak, the chief-of-staff of the President’s Office of Ukraine, called Russia’s blackmail regarding the holding of referendums in the temporarily occupied territories a fear of defeat.
In turn, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba emphasized that sham referendums, which Russia is trying to organize in the occupied territories, would not change anything.
Also, the Russian State Duma, the Kremlin’s rubber-stamp parliament, on Sept. 20 rushed through votes introducing the concepts of “mobilization”, “martial law,” and “armed conflict” into Russia’s Criminal Code. Now in Russia, desertion, absence from service and voluntary surrender will be punished more severely.