WHEN Vladimir Putin says he is not bluffing it is best to assume that he is.

Putin claimed yesterday that the West was threatening Russia with nuclear weapons, insisting: “We have lots of weapons to reply — it is not a bluff.”

It was an effort to paint Russia as the victim but I believe he would have had his fingers crossed as he said it.

The outburst came as the Russian president announced a partial mobilisation of civilians in an attempt to change the course of his disastrous war with Ukraine.

He’s losing on the battlefield, been humiliated internationally and he has now opened a Pandora’s Box for his people.

The Russians have a reserve of two ­million people, most of whom have served in the military in the past five years.


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If they mobilise them to fight in Ukraine it might make a difference — but not until next year.

That’s because they can’t train people quickly after taking all the instructors and a lot of the equipment to the front.

The basic training in Russia is supposed to be five months, specialist training is another two or three months on top of that.

These people aren’t going to appear on the battlefield until the spring which I’m sure this is designed for – a huge second offensive.

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They will be pulled out of civilian occupations which will be unpopular. Putin will have to manage the fall out from that.

This announcement was postponed twice on Tuesday, indicating disagreement in the Kremlin. Russia will also hold sham referendums in occupied Ukraine as a method of annexing the territory.

The big unknown is whether the Russian people will buy these fake elections. They’ve been fed a diet of propaganda for ten years.

It all smacks of desperation and Putin’s power has never been more fragile.

The battle is developing quickly on the ground in Ukraine. Kherson is the only significant city that the Russians hold. If Putin loses it, then the prestige blow will be huge.

Some sort of big upheaval in Russia is now not impossible. Things could happen very quickly.

The Russians are playing for time, as winter starts in Ukraine, which will allow their new troops to pass through training.

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Putin may feel that he’s got to survive until February when he can launch this big offensive and show some results.

If he loses more territory in Ukraine between now and then, he’s in even bigger trouble.

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