He also warned the West that “it is not a bluff” that Russia would use all available means to protect its territory.
The total number of reservists called up for the partial mobilization is 300,000, officials said.
The Kremlin-backed efforts to engulf four regions could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war after Ukrainian successes on the battlefield.
Putin accused the West of “nuclear blackmail” and noted “statements by some senior representatives of leading NATO states about the possibility of using nuclear weapons for mass destruction against Russia”.
“To those who allow themselves such statements about Russia, I would like to remind you that our country also has different means of destruction, and for individual components and more modern than those of the NATO countries and when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to and to protect our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,” Putin said.
He added: “It’s not a bluff”.
Putin said he has signed a decree on the partial mobilization, which will start on Wednesday.
“We are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only civilians currently on the reservation will be conscripted, and especially those who have served in the armed forces have a certain military specialty and relevant experience,” Putin said.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a televised interview on Wednesday that Shoigu assured that conscripts and students will not be mobilized, only those with relevant combat and service experience.
He said 5937 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine so far. Western estimates of Russian military losses stand at tens of thousands.
Shoigu’s update on Russian losses marks the third time the Russian military has released death toll figures to the public. The latest update came in late March, when the Defense Ministry claimed 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed in Ukraine.
The referendums, expected to take place since the early months of the war, will begin Friday in the regions of Luhansk, Kherson and partially Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhya and Donetsk.
Putin said the decision to partially mobilize was “completely adequate for the threats we face, namely to protect our homeland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity, to ensure the safety of our people and people in the liberated areas.”
On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed Russia’s plans to organize the referendums as “noise” and thanked Ukrainian allies for condemning the votes.
Ukrainian soldiers hug each other as Russians retreat
Former President Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of the Russian Security Council chaired by Putin, said referendums that fold regions in Russia itself would make redrawn borders “irreversible” and allow Moscow to use “all means” to defend them. .
In his late-night speech, Zelenskyy said there were many questions about the announcements, but emphasized that they would not change Ukraine’s commitment to retake the territories occupied by Russian troops.
“The frontline situation clearly indicates that the initiative is from Ukraine,” he said.
“Our views don’t change because of the noise or any announcements somewhere. And we have the full support of our partners in doing so.”
The upcoming votes in the Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhya and Donetsk regions will almost certainly go in the direction of Moscow.
But they were quickly dismissed as illegitimate by Western leaders who backed Kiev with military and other support that helped its forces gain momentum on the battlefields to the east and south.
“I thank all of Ukraine’s friends and partners for the massive, principled condemnation of Russia’s attempts to organize new mock referendums,” Zelenskyy said.
In another signal that Russia is committed to a prolonged and potentially intensified conflict, the Kremlin-controlled lower house voted on Tuesday to tighten laws against desertion, surrender and looting by Russian troops. Lawmakers also voted to introduce possible 10-year prison terms for soldiers who refuse to fight.
If, as expected, the legislation is passed by the upper house and then signed by Putin, the legislation would strengthen commanders’ hands against the failing morale reported among soldiers.
In the Russian-occupied city of Enerhodar, shelling continued around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
Ukrainian energy company Energoatom said Russian shelling has again damaged infrastructure at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant and workers were briefly forced to start two diesel generators to provide backup power to the cooling pumps of one of the reactors.
Such pumps are essential to prevent a nuclear meltdown in a nuclear facility, even though all six reactors at the plant have been shut down. Energoatom said the generators were later turned off when main power was restored.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been a concern for months over fears that shelling could lead to a radiation leak. Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the shelling