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Ukraine war: Putin's nuclear threat to the West

Vladimir Putin has today threatened to nuke the West over Ukraine, as he announced plans to annex occupied parts of its territory to the Russian mainland

Vladimir Putin today issued a chilling threat to use nuclear weapons against the West over Ukraine, warning world leaders: ‘I’m not bluffing’. 

The desperate despot gave an address to the nation in which he announced the mobilisation of 300,000 military reserves – a first in Russia since the Second World War – and referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine to make them part of Russia.

Faced with the possible collapse of his so-called ‘special military operation’ after a stunning Ukrainian counter-attack last week and backed into a corner of his own making, Putin opted to hold the free world to ransom.

‘If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will without doubt use all available means to protect Russia and our people – this is not a bluff,’ he said. 

Accusing the West of trying to ‘divide and destroy’ Russia, he added: ‘Those trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the tables can turn on them.’

The move puts him on a collision course with Kyiv and its Western allies who have already said that attacks to liberate areas under Russian control will not stop, and the results of any ‘sham’ referendums will not be recognised.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodrymyr Zelensky, dismissed the threat this morning – saying it shows the war is going against Russia.

Vladimir Putin has today threatened to nuke the West over Ukraine, as he announced plans to annex occupied parts of its territory to the Russian mainland

Vladimir Putin has today threatened to nuke the West over Ukraine, as he announced plans to annex occupied parts of its territory to the Russian mainland

Putin vowed that he will use 'all available means' to defend what he sees as Russian territory, adding: 'I'm not bluffing' (pictured, a Russian nuclear test)

 Putin vowed that he will use ‘all available means’ to defend what he sees as Russian territory, adding: ‘I’m not bluffing’ (pictured, a Russian nuclear test)

Russia has announced plans for referendums to take place in four regions of Ukraine it either fully or partially occupied - Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson

Russia has announced plans for referendums to take place in four regions of Ukraine it either fully or partially occupied – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson 

West vows never to recognise ‘sham’ referendums 

Western leaders last night vowed never to respect the results of ‘sham’ referendums annexing parts of Ukraine to Russia, speaking hours before Putin issued his new nuclear threat.

White House spokesman Jake Sullivan described the votes as a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty which carry ‘no legitimacy’.

Emmanuel Macron, speaking at the UN where heads of state are gathered for a general assembly, said that if Moscow’s plan ‘wasn’t so tragic it would be funny.’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Putin will only give up his ‘imperial ambitions’ that risk destroying Ukraine and Russia if he recognises he cannot win the war.

‘This is why we will not accept any peace dictated by Russia and this is why Ukraine must be able to fend off Russia’s attack,’ Scholz said.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the assembly the U.N.’s credibility was in danger because of the invasion by Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, and reforms of the council were needed.

‘Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a conduct that tramples the philosophy and principles of the U.N. charter … It should never be tolerated,’ Kishida said.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba vowed that: ‘The Russians can do whatever they want. It will not change anything.

‘Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say.’

If the referendum plan ‘wasn’t so tragic it would be funny,’ French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters ahead of the U.N. assembly in New York.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 24 ordered what he calls a ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine to root out dangerous nationalists and ‘denazify’ the country. The war has killed thousands, destroyed cities and sent millions fleeing their homes in the former Soviet republic.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Putin will only give up his ‘imperial ambitions’ that risk destroying Ukraine and Russia if he recognises he cannot win the war.

‘This is why we will not accept any peace dictated by Russia and this is why Ukraine must be able to fend off Russia’s attack,’ Scholz said in his first address to the General Assembly.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the assembly the U.N.’s credibility was in danger because of the invasion by Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, and reforms of the council were needed.

‘Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a conduct that tramples the philosophy and principles of the U.N. charter … It should never be tolerated,’ Kishida said.

‘The situation on at the front clearly indicates the initiative is with Ukraine,’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address released early on Wednesday.

Ukraine’s position did not change because of ‘some noise’ from Russia, Zelenskiy added in a reference to the referendums.

He called mobilisation a ‘predictable step’ that will prove extremely unpopular, and said Putin is trying to shift the blame for starting an ‘unprovoked war’ and Russia’s worsening economic situation onto the West.

It is thought the mobilisation will press around 300,000 people into the Russian army – around twice the size of the force that Putin invaded with.

But it is unclear when exactly these men will become available, and the move will do nothing to solve Russia’s chronic lack of equipment, supplies and other logistical issues. 

Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu both stressed that the mobilisation is only partial, and will not affect ordinary citizens, conscripts or students.

Those called up to service – a move that will start today – will be those with experience of service and combat, they insisted.

However, the move seemed to spook Russians with a spike in searches for plane tickets shortly after the announcement amid reports that the cost of one-way flights had soared to tens of thousands of dollars each.

Putin had until now avoided declaring any kind of mobilisation, apparently fearful of backlash from ordinary Russians who may have been supporting his ‘special military operation’ only because they had nothing to lose.

But the Russian leader dramatically changed tack today under pressure from allies, propagandists and hardliners after another humiliating military defeat near Kharkiv last week which had sparked calls for him to resign. 

In a speech delayed for 13 hours overnight – sparking wishful rumours of a coup inside the Kremlin – Putin delivered his twisted interpretation of the war to date.

He attempted to rewrite history to paint the West and NATO as the aggressor – saying they had pushed Ukraine into a war with Russia, despite ordering an invasion of the country himself just seven months ago.

Russia, he argued, had no choice but to launch a ‘pre-emptive’ war to ‘protect’ the people of Ukraine – despite plentiful evidence of civilian massacres, torture, indiscriminate shelling and other atrocities carried out by his troops.

According to Putin, the West is trying to ‘weaken, divide and ultimately destroy our country’, while Shoigu said Moscow was ‘fighting not so much Ukraine as the collective West’ in Ukraine. 

Moscow’s aim, Putin said, remains the full liberation of the Donbass region and its people who he said had been made into ‘hostages of the Kyiv regime’.

In order to ensure victory, he announced that Russia’s military reserves and veterans will start being conscripted into the army from today.

Referendums will also be held in Donetsk and Luhansk – which together make up the Donbas – as well as occupied Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, he said. 

He claimed that this was in keeping with ‘the will and desire of our citizens to determine their future themselves,’ despite the fact that the votes will be held at gunpoint – with police going door-to-door to ensure people cast their ballots.

Putin also hit out at ‘the aggressive policy of Western countries that are trying to keep their supremacy at all costs, trying to block and suppress independent centres of development in order to force their will and brutal way on to other people.’

The allegations are an almost exact inversion of everything Russia has been accused of doing, and is a common trope of Kremlin propaganda.

Referendums will begin this week into next week, according to Russia occupation authorities, with the results expected to be announced shortly after.

Putin attempted to revise history in his address, claiming the West was using Ukrainians as cannon fodder despite his military striking civilian targets (pictured)

Putin attempted to revise history in his address, claiming the West was using Ukrainians as cannon fodder despite his military striking civilian targets (pictured)

Russia will also carry out a partial military mobilisation, Putin said, with veterans and reservists with combat or service experience called up (pictured, Russian marines in training)

Russia will also carry out a partial military mobilisation, Putin said, with veterans and reservists with combat or service experience called up (pictured, Russian marines in training)

Russian markets dive and searches for plane tickets spike as Putin escalates Ukraine war

The rouble tumbled against the dollar on Wednesday and Russian stock markets dived around 10 per cent after Putin ordered Russia’s first military mobilisation since World War Two.

Google data also showed a spike in searches for flights out of the country amid claims the cost of one-way tickets had soared, suggesting spooked citizens were looking for ways to flee the draft.

Putin said he had signed a decree on partial mobilisation, significantly escalating what Russia calls its ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine, and warned that Moscow would respond with the might of all its vast arsenal if the West continued with what he called its ‘nuclear blackmail’.

Shortly after 7am in London, the rouble had slumped 2.6 per cent against the dollar, having earlier dipped to its weakest point since July 7.

Russian stock indexes were plunging, with energy giants Rosneft and Gazprom at one point losing around 12 per cent.

The benchmark rouble-based MOEX index hit its lowest point since Feb. 24, the day Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine.

The index was down 5.5% at 2,094.5 points, earlier reaching a low of 2,002.73 points. The dollar-denominated RTS index was down 8% to 1,061.9 points, its lowest point since April 27.

Ballot boxes will also be set up inside Russia itself, ostensibly to allow those who have already fled those regions a chance to cast a vote – but in all likelihood will be stuffed with fake ballots.

Early ‘polling’ released by Russian state media last night showed – unsurprisingly – that more than 80 per cent of people in the four regions want to join Russia.

In Donetsk and Luhansk, the reported figure was over 90 per cent. 

Putin then added: ‘Our country also has various means of defence, and in some components more advanced than those of NATO countries.

‘When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all the means at our disposal to defend Russia and our people, this is not a bluff.

‘Russian citizens can be sure that the territorial integrity of our homeland, our independence and our freedom will be secured by all the means at our disposal.

‘Those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the winds may blow in their direction.’

He warned: ‘This is not a bluff.’

He claimed he was responding to threats from unnamed high NATO officials ‘about the possibility of using weapons of mass destruction – nuclear weapons – against Russia’.

Putin made clear that by Russian territory he means invaded areas of Ukraine where he is holding sham referendums in the coming days on joining the Kremlin empire.

‘I find it necessary to take the following decision,’ he told Russians in a pre-recorded message.

‘It is completely adequate to the level of threats we are facing, namely – To protect our Motherland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

‘To ensure safety of our people, and people at the liberated territories.

‘I find it necessary to support the suggestion of the Ministry of Defence and the General Staff about declaring partial mobilisation in Russia.

‘I repeat: We are speaking about partial mobilisation.

‘So it would only be current reservists, called to join the military service.

‘First of all it would be those who served in the army, have relevant army specialty and experience .

‘Those called to join the army will go through mandatory military training.’

Putin said that ‘only citizens who are currently in the reserve and above all those who have served in the Armed Forces, have certain military professions and relevant experience, will be called up for military service.

Putin lashed out at the free world after his military suffered a humiliating rout near Kharkiv last week that handed a swathe of territory back to Ukraine (pictured, destroyed Russian tanks)

Putin lashed out at the free world after his military suffered a humiliating rout near Kharkiv last week that handed a swathe of territory back to Ukraine (pictured, destroyed Russian tanks)

Russia is increasingly resorting to desperate moves to hold on to the territory it has seized in Ukraine, including the apparent use of incendiary weapons (pictured)

Russia is increasingly resorting to desperate moves to hold on to the territory it has seized in Ukraine, including the apparent use of incendiary weapons (pictured)

‘Those called up for military service will undergo additional military training before being dispatched to their units, taking into account the experience of a special military operation.’

Western leaders had pre-empted Putin’s remarks at the UN last night, saying they would not recognise the results of any ‘sham’ referendums in Ukraine.

‘The Russians can do whatever they want. It will not change anything,’ Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday as world leaders were arriving for the United Nations General Assembly meeting.

He later doubled down on the issue, tweeting: ‘Sham ‘referendums’ will not change anything. Neither will any hybrid ‘mobilization.’

‘Russia has been and remains an aggressor illegally occupying parts of Ukrainian land. Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say.’

French President Emmanuel Macron said that if the referendum plan ‘wasn’t so tragic it would be funny.’ 

He described Russia’s invasion as ‘a return to a new age of imperialism and colonies’ and warned that inaction risked ‘tearing down the global order without which peace is not possible.’

‘It’s not a matter of choosing one side between East and West, or North or South. It’s a matter of responsibility’ to the UN Charter, he said.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the world was ‘facing a new fragmentation’ after years of hope following the end of the Cold War and his own nation’s reunification.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the world was ‘facing a new fragmentation’ after years of hope following the end of the Cold War and his own nation’s reunification.

Scholz said that President Vladimir Putin, who invaded Ukraine in February, will ‘only give up his war and his imperialist ambitions if he realizes he cannot win.’

‘We stand firmly at the side of those under attack — for the protection of the lives and the freedom of the Ukrainians, and for the protection of our international order,’ he said.

And Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the assembly the U.N.’s credibility was in danger because of the invasion by Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed world leaders at the UN last night, thanking Western leaders for condemning Russia's plans to break away parts of his country

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed world leaders at the UN last night, thanking Western leaders for condemning Russia’s plans to break away parts of his country

Emmanuel Macron was among leaders to address the UN on Ukraine last night, accusing Putin of trying to 'return to an age of imperialism and colonies'

Emmanuel Macron was among leaders to address the UN on Ukraine last night, accusing Putin of trying to ‘return to an age of imperialism and colonies’

‘Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a conduct that tramples the philosophy and principles of the U.N. charter … It should never be tolerated,’ Kishida said.

In his nightly address Zelenskyy said there were lots of questions surrounding the announcements but stressed that they would not change Ukraine’s commitment to retake areas occupied by Russian forces.

‘The situation on the front line clearly indicates that the initiative belongs to Ukraine,’ he said. ‘Our positions do not change because of the noise or any announcements somewhere. And we enjoy the full support of our partners in this.

‘I thank all friends and partners of Ukraine for today’s mass principled firm condemnation of Russia’s attempts to stage new sham referenda,’ Zelensky said.

In another signal that Russia is digging in for a protracted and ramped-up conflict, the Kremlin-controlled lower of house of parliament voted Tuesday to toughen laws against desertion, surrender and looting by Russian troops. 

Lawmakers also voted to introduce possible 10-year prison terms for soldiers refusing to fight.

If approved, as expected, by the upper house and then signed by Putin, the legislation would strengthen commanders’ hands against failing morale reported among soldiers.

In the Russian-occupied city of Enerhodar, shelling continued around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. 

Ukrainian energy operator Energoatom said Russian shelling again damaged infrastructure at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and briefly forced workers to start two diesel generators for emergency power to reactor cooling pumps.

Such pumps are essential for avoiding a meltdown at a nuclear facility even though all six of the plant’s reactors have been shut down. Energoatom said the generators were later switched off as main power weas restored.

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has been a focus for concern for months because of fears that shelling could lead to a radiation leak. Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the shelling.

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