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Putin’s speech

NewsPutin's speech

Putin delays his address to the nation by 24 hours, increasing uncertainty over possible general mobilization


Last minute update: click here to watch Putin’s speech finally aired today, Wednesday.


After more than two hours of waiting, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided not to appear before the country’s televisions in a long-awaited address to the nation, the first – not coinciding with any anniversary – since he announced the Russian ‘special military operation‘ in Ukraine on February 24.

As always, all eyes – at home and abroad – were on him, wondering what new cards he would have up his sleeve and what they might mean for the course of the war in Ukraine. RT and related channels were announcing the speech, allegedly pre-recorded, according to government sources, together with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. Delays in this type of cases are usual, and Russian television stations livened up the wait with images of folkloric dances. Finally, to the surprise of even the journalists of the Kremlin’s own media apparatus, Putin abruptly changed the script and the speech was cancelled. Surprise, chaos, silence, rumors. The spokesman and other Kremlin communication channels kept absolutely silent.

Annexation referendums

After the progress of the Ukrainian military counteroffensive and the already annoyed voices within the Russian government apparatus, the acceleration of the annexation referendums, which could become effective as soon as next week, of the occupied regions can be read as a threat to the West and a flight forward. Also as a sign of weakness in its offensive: it is not a decision taken when the troops plan to advance, but to stabilize what has already been conquered.

Declaration of war and mobilization

If Putin declares a war instead of a military operation, it would mean that the Special Military Operation has failed. From Moscow, however, versions conflict, and Andrey Kartapolov, chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee, said after the bill was passed that “there will be no general mobilization.” Kartapolov argued that ‘mobilization‘ is not adopted for a specific military operation and to last over time. However, he did admit that martial law could be adopted. “During martial law, all power in the region is completely transferred to the military administration and there are restrictions on the movement of citizens,” he explained.

Indeed, a general mobilization could have negative consequences for Vladimir Putin. Since the invasion began, many Russian soldiers have resigned from the front. On the other hand, there are practically no volunteers willing to join the Russian forces in Ukraine and recruitment problems have been a constant since the beginning of the conflict. They have failed to find arguments that could attract future fighters. Recruitment during the summer failed, also that of retired military personnel. Russia has had to recruit people from prisons and they do not hide it.

Although the Russian population has been in favor of a war, as long as it is not their turn to be directly involved in it. Two-thirds of the Russian population are loyal to Ukraine’s military actions but that does not mean they are ready to enlist in the Russian Army. A general mobilization could be a political setback for Putin and a loss of support for both his government and the invasion in Ukraine. Although the prospects for the future are vague, it is possible that social tension will increase, because some people will try to go into hiding or leave the country. It is no coincidence that while Putin kept Europe on tenterhooks in anticipation of a speech that never came, searches on ‘how to leave Russia’ skyrocketed on Google and traffic to booking websites increased dramatically.

Difficulties for the Russian economy

The drop in the Russian stock market triggered by the announcement of Putin’s speech comes on top of months of pressure on the Russian economy from international sanctions, as well as reduced energy exports and military losses following the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

After months of war and international sanctions, the Russian economy has survived thanks to the increase in the price of natural gas and oil. Now, even this seems to be shaken by the stabilization of tariffs. In September, the G-7 countries agreed to a cap on the price of Russian oil with the aim of “reducing Russia’s revenues and ability to finance the war.” The measure, which they promised to implement urgently, has begun to have its effects on the Russian economy.

All Putin’s options are bad

Whatever decisions Putin announces in his speech, everything will get worse for Russia in the coming months.

Russian troops will continue to accumulate defeats on Ukrainian soil and the Russian population will be impoverished and militarized.

Of course, the only reasonable option, admitting defeat and abandoning the occupied territories in Ukraine to devote all energies to improving the quality of life of the Russian people, is out of all calculations.


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