KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced a partial mobilization in Russia as the war in Ukraine reaches nearly seven months and Moscow loses ground on the battlefield.

Putin’s address to the nation comes a day after Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold votes on becoming integral parts of Russia.

The Kremlin-backed efforts to swallow up four regions could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war following Ukrainian successes.

Putin said he has signed a decree on the partial mobilization, which is due to start on Wednesday.

We are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be subject

to conscription, and above all, those who served in the armed forces have a certain military specialty and relevant experience,” Putin said.

The referendums, which have been expected to take place since the first months of the war, will start Friday in the Luhansk

Kherson and partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions.