Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he expects his mobilization of army reservists for combat in Ukraine to be completed in about two weeks, allowing him to end an unpopular and chaotic call-up meant to counter Ukrainian battlefield gains and solidify his illegal annexation of occupied territory. Putin—facing domestic discontent and military setbacks in a neighboring country armed with increasingly advanced Western weapons—also told reporters he does not regret starting the conflict and "did not set out to destroy Ukraine" when he ordered Russian troops to invade nearly eight months ago, the AP reports.
"What is happening today is unpleasant, to put it mildly," he said after attending a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Kazakhstan's capital. "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." Russia's difficulties in achieving its war aims have become apparent in one of the four Ukrainian regions Putin illegally claimed as Russian territory last month. Even some of Putin’s own supporters have criticized the Kremlin's handling of the war and mobilization, increasing pressure on him to do more to turn the tide in Russia’s favor. Anticipating an advance by Ukrainian forces, Moscow-installed authorities in the Kherson region urged residents to flee Friday.
In his comments on the mobilization, Putin said the action he ordered last month had registered 222,000 of the 300,000 reservists the Russian Defense Ministry set as an initial goal. A total of 33,000 of them have joined military units, and 16,000 are deployed for combat, he said. The mobilization 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. Asked about the possibility of an expanded mobilization, the Russian president said the Defense Ministry had not asked him to authorize one. "Nothing further is planned," Putin said, adding, "In the foreseeable future, I don’t see any need."
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