Russian president says order taken in response to ‘aggressive statements’ by Nato over Ukraine
Vladimir Putin has ordered his military to put Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert in response to “aggressive statements” by Nato countries.
The order came at a meeting between the president, the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, and the chief of the general staff of the armed forces of Russia, Valery Gerasimov.
“Senior officials of the leading Nato countries also allow aggressive statements against our country, therefore I order the minister of Defense and the chief of the general staff [of the Russian armed forces] to transfer the deterrence forces of the Russian army to a special mode of combat duty,” Putin said in televised comments.
“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading Nato members made aggressive statements regarding our country.
It is not immediately clear what the “special mode of combat duty” entails. Putin has warned foreign countries not to interfere in his invasion of Ukraine, saying it could lead to “consequences they have never seen”. He has positioned anti-air missiles and other advanced missile systems in Belarus and deployed his fleet to the Black Sea in an effort to prevent a western intervention in Ukraine.
The US ambassador to the United Nations responded to the news from Moscow while appearing on CBS. “President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. “And we have to continue to condemn his actions in the most strong, strongest possible way.”
The Russian invasion has left hundreds dead. Russia has launched missile strikes against buildings in Kyiv, Kharkiv and other major Ukrainian cities as it threatens an all-out assault not seen since the second world war.
Kharkiv residents were urged to stay indoors by its governor, Oleg Sinegubov, who said “there has been a breakthrough in light equipment including in the central part of the city”. A nine-storey building was reportedly hit, with one woman killed.
Russian forces also blew up a gas pipeline in the city, the Ukrainian state service of special communications said, prompting the government to warn of a potential “environmental catastrophe” and to urge people to protect themselves from the smoke by covering their windows.
Air raid sirens sounded in Kyiv early on Sunday, hours after the US, Britain and European countries announced tougher sanctions targeting Russian banks, including barring some from the Swift international payments system.
Source: The Guardian