President Vladimir Putin has ordered military command to put nuclear forces on high alert, the international news agency Reuters is reporting.
Speaking at a meeting with his top officials, Putin claimed leading Nato powers had made “aggressive statements” as well as imposing hard-hitting financial sanctions against Russia and leading officials.
He ordered the Russian defence minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty.”
“As you can see, not only do Western countries take unfriendly measures against our country in the economic dimension – I mean the illegal sanctions that everyone knows about very well – but also the top officials of leading Nato countries allow themselves to make aggressive statements with regards to our country,” Putin said on state television. “So, I order to move Russia’s deterrence forces to a special regime of duty.”
Sky News Moscow correspondent Diana Magnay described the decision as an “incredibly dramatic, escalatory move”, which will “really, really worry people.” She added, “This is the first time that we’ve ever had a situation, in Putin’s reign at least, where he has put his nuclear forces ready essentially for combat duty, on high alert.”
A senior White House official described it as “yet another escalatory and totally unnecessary step.” They said in a statement: “At every step of this conflict, Putin has manufactured threats to justify more aggressive actions.”
“He was never under threat from Ukraine or from NATO, which is a defensive alliance that will not fight in Ukraine. The only reason his forces face a threat today is because they invaded a sovereign country, and one without nuclear weapons.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has confirmed that he is willing to meet Russian officials at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border for peace talks. “I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try so that later not a single citizen of Ukraine has any doubt that I, as President, tried to stop the war, when there was even a small, but still a chance.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: ARABNEWS.COM