Vladimir Putin cancelled a much-anticipated speech tonight (Tuesday, September 20) in which it was thought he may announce a major escalation in his invasion of Ukraine.
In what was set to be his biggest address since the invasion began in February, it is thought the Russian President was going to make an announcement over mobilisation.
Early today, the State Duma made amendments to a bill that would introduce the concepts of "mobilisation", "martial law" and "wartime" into the Russian Criminal Code.
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The bill was passed in its second and third readings today.
Mobilisation could see some two million military reservists scrambled to join the Ukraine war effort.
Putin's address was set to be at 8pm local time (6pm UK time) but news channels deleted their social media posts announcing it some time after.
Pro-Kremlin media propagandists have now told people waiting for the speech to call it a night.
Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of RT, wrote on Telegram: "Go to sleep." Presenter Vladimir Soloviev said: "Tomorrow!"
It is now expected to be broadcast at either 8am or 9am (Moscow time) tomorrow.
According to The Insider, news channels instead showed a rerun of an old Russian detective drama.
If the speech eventually does take place, and Putin does announce mobilisation, it would represent a declaration of war and a move away from the "special military operation" line first coined in February.
It follows intense pressure on Putin from hardliners to declare war. Leading propagandist Margarita Simonyan said: "Judging by what is happening and what is about to happen, this week marks either the eve of our imminent victory or the eve of nuclear war."
Kremlin sources told RBC that the speech was also going to be used to announce referendums in the Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine.
Representatives of the so-called Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) and Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) announced today that referendums on joining "Russia as a subject of Russia" would be held, starting later this week.
Again, this would represent a marked escalation from Russia simply recognising the regions.
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The bill making its way through the State Duma would make voluntary surrender for Russian military personnel punishable by 10 years in prison.
Failure to comply with an order during martial law will be punished with two to three years, with the commission of a crime "during the period of mobilisation or martial law, in wartime" set to be codified as an aggravating legal factor.
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