The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin has stated that he has no plans ‘for now’ to launch any sort of massive air raids such as those carried out this week, in which more than 100 long-range missiles were fired at targets across Ukraine.
Speaking on Friday at the end of a summit in Kazakhstan, President Putin said ‘We do not set ourselves the task of destroying Ukraine. No, of course not’.
He went on to add that the call-up of reservists would be finished in two weeks, promising an end to the divisive mobilisation that has seen hundreds of thousands of men summoned to fight in Ukraine and huge numbers fleeing the country.
Defending the mobilisation order, Putin told a news conference the front line was too long to defend solely with contract soldiers. He ordered the call-up to bolster the fight along a 1,100-km (684-mile) front line where Ukrainian counteroffensives have inflicted blows to Moscow’s military prestige.
According to Putin, 222,000 out of an expected 300,000 reservists had already been mobilised. ‘This work is coming to an end,’ he said.
Since the mobilisation order was given, Russian forces have continued to lose ground in eastern Ukraine and also lost a substantial area in the south.
Even some of Putin’s own supporters have criticised the Kremlin’s handling of the war, increasing pressure on him to do more to turn the tide in Russia’s favour.
After attending the summit of regional leaders from Asia and Eastern Europe, Putin said he did not regret sending troops into Ukraine nearly eight months ago.
‘What is happening today is unpleasant, to put it mildly,’ he said. ‘But we would have had all this a little later, only under worse conditions for us, that’s all. So my actions are correct and timely.’
The troop mobilisation was troubled from the start with confusion about who was eligible for the draft in a country where almost all men under age 65 are registered as reservists.
Russia’s leader said all activated recruits will receive needed training and he would assign Russia’s Security Council “to conduct an inspection of how mobilised citizens are being trained”.
But reports have indicated recruits deployed to the front lines in Ukraine have received little training and inadequate equipment. Several mobilised reservists were reported to have died in combat in Ukraine this week.
Asked about the possibility of expanded conscription, the Russian president said the defence ministry had not asked him to authorise that. ‘In the foreseeable future, I don’t see any need. Nothing further is planned.’
But some questioned the veracity of Putin’s comments.