RUSSIAN 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.”
A man hugs his twin sons at the Romanian-Ukrainian border, in Siret, Romania, after they fled their home in Ukraine. Picture taken Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru).
The order raises the threat Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could lead to the use of nuclear weapons.
The Russian leader last week threatened to retaliate harshly against any nations that intervened directly in the conflict in Ukraine.
READ MORE: Putin nuclear war threat – What is Russia’s nuclear capability?
As he launched the full scale invasion on Thursday morning, he issued a chilling warning to any western allies who might consider coming to Ukraine’s.
He said: “To anyone who would consider interfering from outside: if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history,” he said. “All the relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me.”
Currently no Nato troops are on the ground in Ukraine, but the alliance is sending support through weapons and aid to the country.
Putin: “Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly economic actions against our country, but leaders of major Nato countries are making aggressive statements about our country. So I order to move Russia’s deterrence forces to a special regime of duty.” pic.twitter.com/AC1yHncqZc
— max seddon (@maxseddon) February 27, 2022
The United States immediately denounced the nuclear escalation threat by the Russian President as “completely unacceptable”.
US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable.”
The moves came as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky announced he had agreed to talks with a Russian delegation on the Ukraine-Belarus border.
Mr Zelensky had earlier rejected an offer of talks in Belarus, saying the Russian ally had been a launchpad for the invasion of his country.
Earlier today the UK’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Putin may be prepared to use “the most unsavoury means” to secure victory in Ukraine.
Ms Truss said any use of nuclear or chemical weapons would represent an “extremely serious escalation” of the conflict which could see Russian leaders brought before the International Criminal Court.
Her warning came after the Commons Defence Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood said that in the “worst-case scenario” Mr Putin could deploy low yield tactical nuclear weapons if his forces failed to make a breakthrough.
With the Russian advance on the capital, Kyiv, apparently bogged down in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance, Ms Truss said the survival of Mr Putin’s regime could now be at stake if his invasion plan failed.
READ MORE: Putin may use ‘most unsavoury means’ amid nuclear weapons fears
“This could well be the beginning of the end for Putin. I fear that he is prepared to use the most unsavoury means in this war,” she told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme.
Asked about Russia’s arsenal of chemical and tactical weapons, she said: “I fear this conflict could be very, very bloody.
“I urge the Russians not to escalate this conflict but we do need to be prepared for Russia to seek to use even worse weapons. I think it would be hugely devastating. We need to avoid this at all costs.”
Speaking later on the BBC’s Sunday morning programme, she said that senior Russian officials could be tried for war crimes “if they do go into that arena”.
A Ukrainian woman arrives in tears at the Medyka border crossing, in Poland, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
“This would be extremely serious escalation of the situation,” she said.
READ MORE: Edinburgh Ukraine protest — Scots tell Putin ‘loud and clear’ to end invasion
Meanwhile, more than 200,000 people have been forced to flee Ukraine following the Russian invasion to bordering nations like Romania, Poland, Hungary, Moldova, and the Czech Republic.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said the invasion will have “devastating humanitarian consequences” on civilians.
During her TV interviews this moring Ms Truss declined to say how many refugees from Ukraine the UK will accept but insisted the UK Government is “urgently” looking at what more it can do.
Boris Johnson’s Government has faced intense criticism over its failure so far to relax the visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals.
Ms Truss said Britain has always welcomed refugees fleeing from war, but did not say how soon the country will welcome people from Ukraine or how many will be accepted.
Asked if the Government will waive visa requirements for Ukrainians coming to the UK, she told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme with Sophie Raworth: “It is a desperate situation.
“We’re working with the United Nations, we’re working with the Red Cross, to keep humanitarian corridors open.
“We’ve put support into the neighbouring countries like Slovakia and Poland to help with the refugee crisis.
“And of course Britain has always welcomed refugees fleeing from war, and we’re urgently looking at what more we can do to facilitate that.
“But ultimately what we need to make sure is that we protect Ukraine as a sovereign democracy.
“Ultimately, the people of Ukraine want to live in Ukraine.”
It was put to the Cabinet minister that anyone who has no connection to the UK cannot get in, and she was asked if that will be changed.
She said: “We are looking urgently at what we can do. We’re working with European partners about how we support refugees who are leaving Ukraine. So, yes, is the answer.”
Pressed on how many refugees the UK will accept and how soon, Ms Truss said:
“Well, as I’ve said, this is something we are urgently looking at.”
She said the UK is already providing support on the ground with teams in Poland and Slovakia.
“I will be travelling to the region this week and we will do all we can to support Ukrainians, both in Ukraine and those who have had to flee because of this appalling war,” she said.
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said visa restrictions for those seeking sanctuary in the UK from Ukraine are “totally unacceptable”.