Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday a partial call-up of Russian military forces amid multiple setbacks in its seven-month conflict with neighboring Ukraine.
Putin made the announcement during an address to his nation, marking the first time Russia has called up another round of troops since World War II.
Kremlin officials said that up to 300,000 individuals could be called up to join the military.
After his announcement, the demand for plane tickets out of the country spiked, a sign that Russian citizens appear to be scrambling to leave the country.
Putin also called out the West for supporting Ukraine in his speech, saying he is willing to use anything at his disposal to protect Russia’s territory.
Russia has made numerous attempts to recruit more troops for its volunteer battalions, including widespread recruitment initiatives in prisons.
The latest military call-up comes as the Russian-controlled regions of Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk are voting later this week in an effort to become integral parts of Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has referred to the referendums being conducted by Russia as illegitimate and a “sham.”
During an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told anchor George Stephanopoulos that he sees the latest military call up from Russia as a sign that Russian forces are “struggling.”
“It’s definitely a sign that he’s struggling,” Kirby told Stephanopoulos, adding that Putin has suffered tens of thousands of casualties.
“He’s got desertion problems and he’s forcing the wounded back into the fight,” Kirby added. “So clearly, manpower is a problem for him.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.