On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties to annex occupied areas of Ukraine, saying he would use "all available means" to protect the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. Within hours, the U.S. hit Russia with sanctions for annexing those regions. (See related story)
Reuters reports this morning that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has also turned up the heat on Putin, announcing Ukraine was formally applying for fast-track membership with NATO and was ready for talks with Moscow – but not with Putin.
Meanwhile, Putin wants to dispatch another 300,000 soldiers to the war in Ukraine amid growing domestic resistance, as protests are breaking out across the country. So far, more than 2,000 Russians have been arrested for demonstrating against the war, chanting slogans such as "Send Putin to the trenches!" and "No to war!"
Bob Maginnis, a senior fellow for national security at the Family Research Council, tells AFN the Russians are pulling out all the stops to recruit anybody that has a pulse.
"They're going after people who are typically not fit for military service," he describes. "And yet, they're so desperate they're forcing them into some sort of conscription situation."
According to Maginnis, the Russian president is in a very bad place.
"[This] is a sign of significant desperation on the part of Vladimir Putin – and it will not end well," he warns. "And I think in part you've already heard from Putin here recently when he declared that they haven't taken nuclear forces off the table."
The FRC senior fellow says it's clear that Putin's aggression in Ukraine is going bad – both on the battlefield and at home. To win, says Maginnis, Putin needs to ramp-up operations, which will require more blood and wealth – both on short supply in Russia. And that, he concludes, is why Putin is once again threatening to use nuclear weapons.