Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has accused president Vladimir Putin of trying to “smear hundreds of thousands of people” in a “criminal war” after he ordered a partial mobilisation of Russian reserves.
The Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny made the remark via a video message recorded from prison, which he had published by his lawyers.
He warned Putin’s new martial order would lead to “massive tragedy”.
Navalny, who is serving more than a 10 years in prison, said: “This will result in a massive tragedy, in a massive amount of deaths… in order to keep his personal power, Putin went into a neighbouring country, killed people there and is now sending a huge quantity of Russian citizens into this war.
“It is clear that the criminal war is getting worse, deepening, and Putin is trying to involve as many people as possible in this. He wants to smear hundreds of thousands of people in this blood.”
Navalny’s comments came just moments before president Volodymyr Zelensky said his Russian counterpart wanted to “drown Ukraine in blood.”
Speaking to the German newspaper, Bild, the Ukrainian president said Putin did not care if he was killing Russians as well as Ukrainians.
“He wants to drown Ukraine in blood, including the blood of his own soldiers,” said Zelensky.
The Ukrainian leader argued that Putin’s mobilisation had come in response to Russia’s failings on the battlefield as a result of the success of Kyiv’s counter-offensive.
“He sees that his units are simply running away,” Zelensky added.
The Russian leader on Wednesday warned that Moscow would use “all the means” at its disposal to “protect” itself, saying: “It’s not a bluff.”
Under his decree for partial mobilisation, 300,000 additional personnel will be called upon, the country’s defence minister Sergei Shigou said.
Downing Street earlier dubbed the mobilisation of Russia’s military reservists by President Putin as being a “clear admission” his invasion of Ukraine was failing.
A No 10 spokeswoman said: “We will continue to support the Ukrainian government in the face of this assault on their sovereignty.”