You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

'Putin's words sound like direct threat of nuclear war', experts warn

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 28/02/2022 James Gant and James Robinson for MailOnline

Vladimir Putin putting Russia's nuclear deterrent on 'alert' 'sounds like a direct threat of nuclear war', a Nobel Peace Prize winner has warned.

Dmitry Muratov, the editor of Moscow-based newspaper Novaya Gazeta, said the move meant 'if Russia isn't treated as he wants, then everything will be destroyed'.

He also pointed out calls from the West for political elites there to overthrow their president were redundant because 'they always take the side of the ruler'.

Meanwhile a US defence official warned Putin could be tempted to turn to his nuclear arsenal if he keeps being frustrated by his stumbling Ukraine invasion.

Caitlin Talmadge, a nuclear policy expert at Georgetown University, said there is a 'real possibility' the Russian leader could drop a bomb if the diplomatic and political situation continues to crumble.

And Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko issued a chilling threat the West's sanctions are pushing the Kremlin into a Third World War.

The escalating fears of a nuclear battle come despite Kyiv and Moscow agreeing to hold peace talks at the border with Belarus later on Monday.

© Provided by Daily Mail

Mr Muratov, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for 'safeguarding freedom of expression', told the BBC:  'Putin's words sound like a direct threat of nuclear war.

'This is a threat that if Russia isn't treated as he wants, then everything will be destroyed.' He added: 'Russia's political elites are never with the people. They always take the side of the ruler.'

Meanwhile Ms Talmadge, who is associate professor of security studies at Georgetown University, said Putin's move was 'escalatory because it is clearly potentially putting at play forces that, if there's a miscalculation, could make things much, much more dangerous.'

She told the FT: 'There's a real possibility Putin could turn to nuclear weapons if he continues to experience military setbacks and sees the diplomatic and political situation crumbling.'

Fighting raged on across Ukraine over the weekend as Russian forces got bogged down trying to take major cities from the local forces made up of soldiers and civilians.

Putin dramatically ramped up tensions yesterday by ordering troops operating the nuclear deterrent on to a 'special regime of duty' in light of 'aggressive statements' from NATO leaders and 'unfriendly economic actions'.

Earlier Belarus's Lukashenko claimed the West was pushing the Kremlin into a Third World War, saying: 'Now there is a lot of talk against the banking sector, gas, oil, SWIFT.

'It's worse than war. This is pushing Russia into a Third World War. We need to be restrained here so as not to get into trouble. Because nuclear war is the end of everything.'

Ukraine's health ministry said on Sunday that 352 civilians, including 14 children, had been killed since the beginning of Russia's invasion. It also said that 1,684 people, including 116 children, had been wounded.

Ukrainian President Zelensky's office had earlier said the two delegations will meet 'without preconditions' near the Pripyat River, to the north of Chernobyl, in a deal brokered in a phone call with Lukashenko himself.

A spokesman added Lukashenko has taken responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation's travel, talks and return.

Zelensky described his discussion with Lukashenko as 'very substantive', adding that he had made it clear he did not want troops to move from Belarus to Ukraine and Lukashenko 'assured him of this'.

He added: 'I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try, so that later not a single citizen of Ukraine has any doubt that I, as president, tried to stop the war.' 

A handout satellite image made available by Maxar Technologies shows Russian ground forces in convoy near of Ivankiv, Ukraine

A handout satellite image made available by Maxar Technologies shows Russian ground forces in convoy near of Ivankiv, Ukraine
© Provided by Daily Mail

Ukraine filed a lawsuit against Russia at the Hague, with Mr Zelensky requesting that the UN International Court of Justice orders Russia to stop its attack against Ukraine and starts trials soon. 


Video: Reports of Ukraine military facilities targeted by Russian airstrikes (Sky News Australia)

UP NEXT
UP NEXT

The US tonight condemned Putin's order to put his nuclear forces on high alert as dangerous and 'unacceptable'.

The US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield also said nothing was 'off the table' when asked about the possibility of Putin being tried in international court as a war criminal.

Boris Johnson, meanwhile, dismissed Putin's announcement as a 'distraction' from the struggle his troops are facing in Ukraine.

The Prime Minister also cast doubt on possible negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian delegations to try to resolve the crisis.

'There's nothing I've seen so far in his behaviour that leads me to think that he could possibly be sincere,' he said.

Earlier Russian television footage showed Mr Putin meeting with his defence minister and the chief of the general staff, and instructing them to put the nuclear deterrent on a 'special regime of combat duty'.

'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,' he said.

But on a day when the expected assault on Kyiv again failed to materialise and the Ukrainians claimed to have driven Russian forces out of the country's second city Kharkiv, Mr Johnson said his words were 'a distraction from the reality of what's going on'.

'This is an innocent people who are facing a totally unprovoked act of aggression against them, and what's actually happening is that they are fighting back perhaps with more effect, with more resistance, than the Kremlin had bargained for,' he said.

'You can see some of the logistical difficulties that the Russian forces are experiencing. The Russian defence ministry have themselves conceded that they're having casualties. This is a disastrous misbegotten venture by President Putin.'

'Alexander Lukashenko has taken responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation's travel, talks and return,' the statement said. Pictured: The statement posted on Telegram earlier today

'Alexander Lukashenko has taken responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation's travel, talks and return,' the statement said. Pictured: The statement posted on Telegram earlier today
© Provided by Daily Mail

Elsewhere, oil giant BP announced on Sunday it is ditching its controversial 20 per cent stake in the Russian energy group Rosneft 'with immediate effect'.

Chief executive Bernard Looney revealed the move today, saying he was 'saddened' and 'shocked' by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.  

It comes after he was summoned to a meeting with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng on Friday amid growing unease about the BP's Russian dealings.

Earlier yesterday, in a speech to mark Russia's special forces day, Putin thanked soldiers for 'heroically fulfilling their military duty' in Ukraine, before parroting his propaganda line that his armies are providing assistance to the 'people's republics of Donbas' - referring to two rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine that Russia recognised as independent states ahead of its invasion.

'I want to thank the command, the personnel of the special operations forces, veterans of the special forces units for their loyalty to the oath, for their impeccable service in the name of the people of Russia and our great motherland,' he said. 

In a televised address, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the peace talks were called after Belarus prepared its forces to join the Russian invasion.

'Today, we were as close as ever to the entry of Belarus armed forces into the war. This is why President Zelensky and President Lukashenko spoke today,' he said in his address.

'We have to defend our northern flank and we have to minimise the threats coming from there. So we agreed to send a delegation to the location on the Ukranian-Belarus border and we go to there to listen to what Russia has to say.

'We are going there without preliminary agreement on what the outcome of these talks can be. We are going there to say what we think of this war and Russia's actions.'

Russian forces entered Ukraine's second largest city of Kharkiv today after failing in their overnight efforts to seize control of the capital city of Kyiv © Provided by Daily Mail Russian forces entered Ukraine's second largest city of Kharkiv today after failing in their overnight efforts to seize control of the capital city of Kyiv Ukraine's Ministry of Defence today claimed it has killed more than 4,300 Russian soldiers in the first three days of fighting. Russia has not released an updates on its military losses. Pictured: An Ukrainian Territorial Defence fighter examines a destroyed Russian infantry mobility vehicle GAZ Tigr after the fight in Kharkiv © Provided by Daily Mail Ukraine's Ministry of Defence today claimed it has killed more than 4,300 Russian soldiers in the first three days of fighting. Russia has not released an updates on its military losses. Pictured: An Ukrainian Territorial Defence fighter examines a destroyed Russian infantry mobility vehicle GAZ Tigr after the fight in Kharkiv

Mr Kuleba said Belarus had assured Ukraine that no Belarusian military force will be use against Kyiv while the talks take place, but he insisted Ukraine's military military would continue to 'fiercely defend' the country against Russia attacks in the meantime.

'I think the fact Russia wants to talk without any pre-conditions or any ultimatums, without any demands addressed to Ukraine, is already a victory for Ukraine,' he added.

Iskander missiles were launched from Belarus to Ukraine around 5pm (3pm GMT), an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister said. 

Russia's flagship carrier announced Sunday it was suspending flights to Europe after the European Union closed its airspace to Russian aircraft for Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The announcement came after the EU said Sunday it would close its airspace to Russian carriers, adding to a litany of sanctions imposed on Russia over its attack on Ukraine.

'Aeroflot is suspending flights of the European route network from February 28, 2022 until further notice,' the company said on its website.

The EU's airspace ban prohibits flights into or over the EU by all Russian planes, including private jets.

The measure consolidated what was already de facto largely in place, with many of the EU's 27 nations having individually announced airspace closures to Russian flights.

In response, Russia has barred flights from a number of countries such as Britain, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Read more

More From Daily Mail

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon