This statement by Vladimir Putin made waves on Sunday: Russia’s president publicly declared that he would put his nuclear forces on high alert. Although he had repeatedly hinted at the possibility of a nuclear war in recent weeks, with this step he at least pretended to take concrete steps in this direction.
For Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Putin’s instruction is primarily a means of exerting pressure on Ukraine. “We see this announcement as an attempt to put additional pressure on the Ukrainian delegation,” Kuleba told journalists on Sunday. He was referring to negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, which were due to start on Sunday. “But we will not give in to this pressure.”
Ukraine is ready to listen to Russia’s positions, Kuleba said. No conditions were imposed on Kiev for the talks on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border. “Then we will tell them what we think about it. We are ready to discuss how to end the war,” Kuleba said, underlining that Ukraine will neither capitulate nor give up any part of its territory. Should nuclear weapons be used against Ukraine, “I have a simple message: It will end in catastrophe for the entire world.”
The US government underlined that Russia had never been threatened by NATO. The fact that Putin has now put the nuclear forces on alert follows a pattern, says spokeswoman for the President’s Office in Washington, Jen Psaki. Putin constructs dangers that do not exist in order to justify Russian aggression. “We will counter that,” says Psaki. “We have the ability to defend ourselves.”
The US Ambassador to the United Nations has “strongly condemned” Russia’s decision. Diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield told CBS, referring to the Russian president: “It means that Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a way that is totally unacceptable.” Putin must end the war against Ukraine, she demanded.
The United Nations spokesman has expressed grave concern at Russia’s move to put the nuclear power’s deterrent weapons on alert. “The mere idea of a nuclear conflict is simply unimaginable,” UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told the German Press Agency on Sunday.
Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP) has sharply condemned President Vladimir Putin’s putting Russia’s nuclear forces on alert. Putin “needs to know that in reality this path would mean the end,” said Schallenberg on Sunday evening. It is a weapon that “guarantees mutual total annihilation”. There was “not the slightest reason” for Moscow to take this step, emphasized Schallenberg.