Will the Kremlin have to mobilize more troops to bolster its faltering war in Ukraine?

“For as long as I can remember, there has never been such a situation like this,” Gennady Zyuganov told Russia’s lower house of parliament on September 13. “The special military operation…in Ukraine has turned into a full-fledged war.”

“A war and a special operation differ at their core,” he continued. “A war cannot be ended, even if you want: You take it to the very end, either victory or defeat. The question of victory in the Donbas is the question of our historical requirements, and everyone in this hall should realistically assess the situation.”

His comments differed slightly, though significantly, from the prepared remarks released by his party: “The maximum mobilization of forces and resources is now required.”

With that, Zyuganov opened a sizable crack in the wall of discourse surrounding the nearly seven-month-old invasion, as Ukrainian forces pulled off a stunning victory in the Kharkiv region, sending Russian troops there reeling, and retaking control of the northeastern region.

Merely calling the Ukraine operation a “war” — instead of using the Kremlin’s preferred euphemism “special military operation” — was already problematic under laws rushed through parliament in March. Critics who have termed it a “war” or an “invasion” have faced prosecution on charges of discrediting the armed forces or spreading false news about them.

Although Zyuganov’s influence is limited in a country whose security policy is dominated by the small circle of hawkish military and intelligence officials surrounding President Vladimir Putin, his comments raised eyebrows and fueled the debate on whether Russia will be forced to declare war and begin a mobilization of troops in order to secure its goals in Ukraine.

He’s not the only one urging such steps.

“Without full mobilization, moving to a war footing, including for the economy, we will not achieve proper results,” Mikhail Sheremet, a lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party member who sits on the Duma’s Security Committee, said in a radio interview. “I’m talking about the fact that today’s society should be consolidated as much as possible, with the goal of victory.”

Yury Fedorov, an independent Russian military analyst who now lives abroad, told Current Time that a feeling of inevitable defeat is causing panic among some in “the highest circles of the Russian nomenklatura.”

“And in this panic, they start to return to old ideas, about mobilization, about having to declare war, about how the West has declared war — although it wasn’t the West that declared war on Russia, but Russia that tried to declare war on the West last December,” Fedorov said.

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