President Vladimir Putin also warns the West that he isn't bluffing over using all the means at his disposal to protect Russia's territory, in what appears to be a veiled reference to Russia’s nuclear capability.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a partial mobilisation of reservists — those with relevant combat and service experience — in order to bolster Russia's military campaign in Ukraine.
In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, he vowed to use "all available means" to protect Russian territory, remarks that came after Moscow-held regions of Ukraine announced annexation referendums in an apparently coordinated move.
The votes announced on Tuesday, already denounced by Kiev and the West as a "sham", will dramatically up the stakes in the seven-month old conflict in Ukraine by giving Moscow the ability to accuse Ukrainian forces of attacking its own territory.
In his pre-recorded address, Putin accused the West of trying to "destroy" his country through its backing of Kiev, and said Russia needed to support those in Ukraine who wanted to "determine their own future".
Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu later told state television that some 300,000 reservists would be called up.
Only those with relevant combat and service experience will be mobilised, Shoigu said. He added that there are around 25 million people who fit this criteria, but only around 1 percent of them will be mobilised.
The mobilisation is being carried out to control "already liberated territories", said Shoigu, referring to Ukrainian territories under Russian control.
'All means at our disposal'
"When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff," Putin said, in what appeared to be a reference to Russia’s nuclear capability.
"Those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can also turn in their direction," Putin added.
Putin said through its support for Ukraine the West was trying to "weaken, divide and ultimately destroy our country", while Shoigu said Moscow was "fighting not so much Ukraine as the collective West" in Ukraine.
The sudden flurry of moves by Moscow this week came with Russian forces in Ukraine facing their biggest challenge since the start of the conflict.
In a rare admission of military losses from Moscow, Shoigu said on Wednesday 5,937 Russian soldiers had died in Ukraine since the launch of the military intervention in February.
A sweeping Ukrainian counter-offensive in recent weeks has seen Kiev's forces retake hundreds of towns and villages that had been controlled by Russia for months.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russia's mobilisation was a predictable step that will prove extremely unpopular and underscores that the offensive is not going according to Moscow's plan.
Podolyak said in a text message to Reuters news agency that Putin was trying to shift the blame for starting an "unprovoked war" and Russia's worsening economic situation onto the West.
China, which has been maintaining close ties with Russia, called for dialogue after Putin's announcement sparked concerns over the course of the conflict.
Beijing “calls for a cease-fire through negotiations and solutions that answer all parties’ security concerns,” said Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of China’s Foreign Ministry, according to the state-run Global Times newspaper.
"Every country’s reasonable security concerns should be valued, and all efforts conducive to resolving the crisis peacefully should be supported. China calls for dialogue and consultation to resolve the divergences," Wang added.