Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised statement on Sunday that he was ordering Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces on alert, as he continues his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Driving the news: Speaking alongside his defense minister and military chief of staff, Putin said recent sanctions and “aggressive statements” from NATO countries had led him to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty.”
This is the second time Putin has alluded to Russia’s nuclear arsenal while effectively warning the West to back off.
- In a statement at the onset of the invasion, Putin said anyone who tried to “hinder us” would face “such consequences that you have never encountered in your history.”
- Fear of a standoff between nuclear powers is a large part of the reason the U.S. and its NATO allies have been so adamant that they will not send troops to Ukraine.
The latest: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that a Ukrainian delegation would meet with a Russian delegation for peace talks “without preconditions” on the border between Ukraine and Belarus.
State of play: U.S. and Ukrainian officials say Russia’s invasion is not going to plan due to stronger-than-expected Ukrainian resistance.
- The Kremlin and state media continue to tell Russians that no “war” or “invasion” is taking place, but instead states there’s a limited defensive operation in eastern Ukraine.
- The large protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg, despite the threat of mass arrests, indicate that many Russians aren’t buying it.
What to watch: Having already threatened any independent publications that report on Russian casualties or aggression with censorship, the government is preparing to crack down harder on its citizens.
- The Kremlin today announced that “the provision of any assistance to a foreign state” during the “military operation” would be considered treason, carrying a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Go deeper: Sanctions push Russia closer to China