In a dramatic escalation over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert in reaction to what he called “aggressive comments” by senior NATO states.
The order occurred during a meeting on Sunday between the president, Sergei Shoigu, and Valery Gerasimov, the Russian army’s head of general staff, according to Reuters.
The president ordered Russia’s nuclear weapons to be ready to launch, in a “special regime of combat duty,” boosting the risk of a nuclear conflict. He emphasized harsh financial restrictions imposed by the West on Russia, including him.
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Putin added in televised comments. “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.”
“Not only are Western countries taking economic measures against our country, but leading Nato members have made harsh statements against us,” he said.
Putin has urged foreign countries not to intervene with his invasion of Ukraine, citing “unknown consequences.”
On CBS, the US envoy to the UN responded to the news from Moscow. “President Putin is escalating this war in an intolerable manner,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield stated. “And we must continue to strongly denounce his actions.”
Early Sunday morning sirens sounded in Kyiv when the US, UK, and EU imposed stronger penalties against Russian institutions, including exclusion from the Swift global payments system.
Russia has initiated missile attacks on structures in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other key Ukrainian cities, threatening all-out war.
Russian forces squeezing vital ports in the country’s south looked to signify a new phase of Russia’s invasion following a wave of attacks on airfields and petroleum facilities elsewhere.
According to the Ukrainian state service of special communications, Russian forces blew up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million people located about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) south of the Russian border. The government has warned of an “environmental catastrophe” and advised residents to cover their windows to avoid smoke inhalation.
A 39-hour curfew kept people off the streets. Underground garages and subway stations were avoided.