As West rallies to Ukraine, Putin puts nuclear deterrent on high alert
The US responded by saying Putin was escalating the war in a ‘completely unacceptable’ way, amid signs that the biggest assault on a European state since World War II was not producing quick victories on the field. battle for Russia.
The Ukrainian president’s office said negotiations with Moscow without preconditions would be held on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. The Kremlin said the talks had started.
As missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities, nearly 400,000 Ukrainian civilians, mostly women and children, fled to neighboring countries. Hundreds of people were stranded in Kiev on Sunday waiting for trains to take them west away from the fighting.
The capital remains in the hands of the Ukrainian government, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy rallying his people despite Russian bombardments of civilian infrastructure.
The medical oxygen supply is running out, the WHO said. A blood bank was full of donors, despite shooting which injured two people the day before, a doctor said.
Putin, who described the invasion as a ‘special military operation’, brought an alarming new element into play when he ordered Russian deterrents – units including nuclear weapons – to go on high alert maximum.
He cited aggressive statements by NATO leaders and the barrage of economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the West.
“As you can see, not only the Western countries are taking hostile action against our country in the economic dimension – I mean the illegal sanctions that everyone is very familiar with – but also the senior officials of the major NATO countries allow themselves to make aggressive statements with regard to our country,” Putin told state television.
Putin previously referenced his nuclear arsenal in a speech announcing the start of the invasion on Thursday, saying Russia’s response to any country trying to hinder it would be immediate and would have “consequences you never have. encountered in your story”.
The French Foreign Minister retorted the same day that Putin had to remember that NATO was also a nuclear alliance.
“NO DETERRENCE BUT THREAT”
“It’s not ‘deterrence’ from Putin – it’s a threat,” said Patricia Lewis, director of the international security program at the Chatham House think tank.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Putin’s order was an attempt to pressure Kiev during the talks, but he would not be intimidated.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told CBS: “President Putin continues to escalate this war in a completely unacceptable way and we must continue to stem his actions in the most as strong as possible”.
A US defense official said Washington was trying to assess what Putin’s announcement meant in tangible terms, but that increased the danger of miscalculation. The United States and several other Western countries provide military assistance to Ukraine.
Western countries on Sunday extended a ban on Russian airlines using their airspace, giving Russian airliners an exit route almost westward.
And as part of the toughest economic sanctions against Moscow to date, the United States and Europe said on Saturday they would ban major Russian banks from the main global payment system SWIFT and announced other measures aimed at limit Moscow’s use of a $630 billion war chest.
Continued protests have taken place around the world against the invasion in recent days, including in Russia, which cracked down harshly, detaining 1,700 more protesters on Sunday, bringing the total number of arrests to 4,000.
More than 100,000 people demonstrated in Berlin on Sunday in solidarity with Ukraine.
BATTLE FOR KHARKIV
A Ukrainian state agency said before dawn Russian troops blew up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, sending a burning cloud into the darkness.
Shortly after, Russian soldiers and armored vehicles arrived in Kharkiv, located in northwestern Ukraine, and witnesses reported gunfire and explosions. But city authorities said Ukrainian fighters repelled the attack.
“The control of Kharkiv is entirely ours! The armed forces, police and defense forces are working and the city is completely cleared of the enemy,” regional governor Oleh Sinegubov said.
Reuters was unable to corroborate the information.
Ukrainian forces were also holding back Russian troops advancing on Kiev.
“We resisted and successfully repelled enemy attacks. The fighting continues,” Zelenskiy said in the latest of several video messages from the streets of Kiev.
He refused to leave the city and rounded up combatants and civilians, many non-combatants seeking refuge in the underground train stations.
A United Nations relief agency said more than 368,000 refugees had crossed into neighboring countries, clogging railways, roads and borders.
At least 198 Ukrainians, including three children, were killed in the invasion, the head of Ukraine’s health ministry said.
A United Nations agency reported 64 civilian deaths and a Ukrainian presidential adviser said 3,500 Russian soldiers had been killed or injured. Reuters was unable to verify the figures. Western officials said intelligence showed Russia was suffering higher losses than expected, but Russia did not release casualty figures.
NO OTHER ANSWER
The United States and its allies have authorized more arms transfers to help Ukraine fight a war that threatens to upend Europe’s post-Cold War order.
Ignoring weeks of frantic diplomacy and sanctions threats from Western nations, Putin justified the invasion by claiming that “neo-Nazis” rule Ukraine and threaten Russia’s security – a charge that Kiev and Western governments call it baseless propaganda.
Putin has said he must eliminate what he calls a serious threat to his country from his smaller neighbor, accusing him of genocide against Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine – something Kiev and its allies Westerners dismiss it as a lie.
Ukraine, a democratic nation of 44 million people, gained independence from Moscow in 1991 upon the fall of the Soviet Union and pushed to join the Western military alliance of NATO and the EU, goals which Russia vehemently opposes.
Germany said on Sunday it would increase defense spending to more than 2% of its economic output in response to the invasion, breaking with its post-World War II custom.
“There could be no other response to Putin’s aggression,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz told lawmakers, a day after Germany agreed to send defensive anti-tank weapons, surface-to-air missiles and ammunition to Ukraine.
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova, Aleksandar Vasovic in Kyiv; Natalia Zinets and Matthias williams in Lviv; Alan Charlish in Medyka, Poland; Fedja Grulovic in Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania; and Reuters offices; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel and Angus MacSwan; Editing by David Clarke and Kevin Liffey)