Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his defence chiefs to put the country’s nuclear “deterrence forces” on high alert Sunday and accused the West of taking “unfriendly” steps against his country.
International tensions are already soaring over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Putin’s order will cause further alarm.
Moscow has the world’s second-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons and a huge cache of ballistic missiles which form the backbone of the country’s deterrence forces.
“I order the defence minister and the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into a special mode of combat service,” Putin said.
“You see that Western countries are not only unfriendly to our country in the economic sphere — I mean illegitimate sanctions,” he added, in a televised address.
“Senior officials of leading NATO countries also allow aggressive statements against our country.”
Defence Minister Shoigu replied: “Affirmative.”
The Russian president on Thursday ordered the invasion of Ukraine, sending shockwaves around the world.
Russian ground forces have pressed into Ukraine from the north, east and south but have encountered fierce resistance from Ukrainian troops, the intensity of which has likely surprised Moscow, according to Western sources.
Ukrainian authorities describe some Russian troops as demoralised and exhausted, claiming that dozens have surrendered.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday accused Ukrainian authorities of wasting “an opportunity” to hold talks after Moscow’s invasion of its pro-Western neighbour.
The Kremlin said that Putin had briefed Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett about “the course of a special military operation to protect Donbas”.
During the call, the statement said, he “also noted that the Russian delegation is in the Belarus city of Gomel and is ready for negotiations with representatives of Kyiv, who, showing inconsistency, have not yet taken advantage of this opportunity”.
Bennet for his part proposed that Israel act as a mediator in talks between Russia and Ukraine “in order to halt the hostilities”, the Kremlin said.
Bennett’s office said the two men “discussed the situation between Russia and Ukraine”.
The call followed reports that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had asked Israel to play a mediation role following the Russian invasion.
Bennett and Zelensky spoke on Friday.
Russia wants to hold talks with Kyiv authorities in Belarus, which has allowed Russian troops passage to invade Ukraine.
Zelensky said Sunday that Ukraine was willing to hold talks with Russia, but rejected convening them in neighbouring Belarus.
Zelensky’s address came as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that Moscow was prepared for talks and had dispatched a delegation to the Belarusian city of Gomel.
“We will be ready to begin these talks in Gomel,” Peskov said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine that has already cost some 200 civilian lives and drawn global condemnation.
Moscow says Kyiv’s forces must surrender and the country should agree to become a “neutral” territory, conditions seen widely as unacceptable by Ukraine.
Russian ground forces have pressed into Ukraine from the north, east and south but have encountered fierce resistance from Ukrainian troops, the intensity of which has likely surprised Moscow, according to Western sources.
Putin on Sunday congratulated members of special forces, saying they fought “heroically” in Ukraine.
“Special gratitude to those who these days are heroically fulfilling their military duty in the course of a special operation to provide assistance to the people’s republics of Donbas,” Putin said in a televised address.
Downing Street said Johnson told his counterparts that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “catastrophe” and the Kremlin chief was “engaging in a revanchist mission to overturn post-Cold War order”.
Warning that Putin “may not stop there” and calling the situation a “Euro-Atlantic crisis with global consequences”, he urged leaders to cut Russia off from the SWIFT international bank transfer system “to inflict maximum pain”.
Johnson’s comments ratchet up British action this week against Russian interests including banks, businesses and billionaires, though some lawmakers and experts have said the UK is not going far enough.
And it will bring Britain more into line with the European Union, which slapped sanctions on Putin and Lavrov on Friday.
‘No British troops’
Even earlier in the day, Britain and nine other northern European defence allies from the so-called Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) agreed in a call that further sanctions were needed on Russia.
“The leaders agreed that more sanctions were needed, including focusing on President Putin’s inner circle, building on the measures that had already been agreed,” Johnson’s office said after the meeting.
The JEF, set up in 2012, is made up of NATO members Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom, and non-members Finland and Sweden.
It is focused on security in the “High North” region around the Arctic, the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea area.
At a meeting of its defence ministers on Tuesday, they announced upcoming manoeuvres in the Baltic Sea to demonstrate “freedom of movement” in the strategic zone.
Johnson pledged “further UK support to Ukraine” in a phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday morning, as Russian forces closed in on the capital, Kyiv.
Britain has said it is ready to provide Ukraine with additional military support including lethal defensive weapons, but Defence Secretary Ben Wallace ruled out sending troops.
He told BBC television that Britain would “hold the line in NATO”, adding: “I’m not putting British troops directly to fight Russian troops.
“That would trigger a European war because we are a NATO country, and Russia would therefore be attacking NATO.”
Johnson praised “the bravery and heroism of the Ukrainian people in standing up to Russia’s campaign of violence”, according to Downing Street.
“The Prime Minister committed to provide further UK support to Ukraine in the coming days as the people of Ukraine and the world continue to demonstrate that Putin cannot act with impunity,” it added.
The Russian Grand Prix scheduled for September 25 has been cancelled in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the sport’s owners Formula One announced on Friday.
F1 were reacting to Russian President Vladimir Putin defying Western warnings to unleash a full-scale invasion on Thursday that quickly claimed dozens of lives and displaced at least 100,000 people.
Fighting has gone into a second day with Ukrainian forces fighting off Russian invaders in the streets of the capital Kyiv.
“On Thursday evening Formula 1, the FIA, and the teams discussed the position of our sport, and the conclusion is, including the view of all relevant stakeholders, that it is impossible to hold the Russian Grand Prix in the current circumstances,” read the Formula One statement.
“We are watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation.”
Their rapid action over the race comes after defending world champion Max Verstappen and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel had publicly declared at testing in Barcelona their opposition to driving in the race.
Red Bull driver Verstappen said: “When a country is at war, it’s not right to run there,” whilst Vettel was more forthright.
“For myself, my own opinion is I should not go, I will not go. I think it’s wrong to race in the country,” said the 34-year-old German Aston Martin driver.
“I’m sorry for the people, innocent people that are losing their lives, that are getting killed for stupid reasons and a very, very strange and mad leadership.”
American Formula 1 team Haas, which have a Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, showed their distaste for the invasion by announcing their cars will not sport the Russian colours of its title sponsor Uralkali during the last day of pre-season testing on Friday.
Haas whose cars usually sport the blue, white and red colours of the Russian flag, “will present its VF-22 in a plain white livery, without the Uralkali branding, for the third and final day of testing” in Catalonia, the team said in a statement.
Team principal Guenther Steiner, who maintained that the team was “financially OK”, said a decision would be announced next week on the future of Haas’s long-term collaboration with Uralkali.
The future of Mazepin, whose father Dmitry Mazepin is the non-executive director of Uralkali and close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is also in question.
Steiner acknowledges that the 22-year-old’s career with the team “must be resolved” but said “it’s not all up to us”.
“There are governments involved and I have no power over that,” said Steiner. “We have to see how the situation develops.”
Mazepin, who was due to drive during Friday’s morning session, made no comment on the war in Ukraine in a tweet he made to his “fans and followers” on Friday.
“It’s a difficult time and I am not in control over a lot of what is being said and done,” he tweeted. “I’m choosing to focus on what I CAN control by working hard and doing my best for my @HaasF1Team. My deepest thanks for your understanding and support.”
This was due to be the last Russian Grand Prix in Sochi which has hosted the race since 2014. Next year it is due to move to Saint Petersburg.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday called on the Ukrainian army to overthrow the government whose leaders he described as “terrorists” and “a gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis”.
Putin also accused “Ukrainian nationalists” of deploying heavy weapons in residential areas of major cities to provoke the Russian military, a claim that could fuel fears Moscow is creating pretexts for justifying civilian casualties.
Addressing the Ukrainian military in a televised address, he urged them to “take power in your own hands.”
“It seems like it will be easier for us to agree with you than this gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis,” he said, referring to leadership in Kyiv led by President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish.
Putin, who on Thursday ordered Russian troops to invade Ukraine, claimed that Ukrainian “nationalists” were preparing to deploy multiple rocket launchers to residential areas of Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv and the northeastern city of Kharkiv.
Ukraine’s leadership are “acting like terrorists all over the world: they are hiding behind people in the hope of then blaming Russia for civilian casualties”.
“It is known for a fact that this is happening on the recommendation of foreign consultants, primarily American advisers,” Putin said.
Putin and top Russian officials have said Moscow’s troops are only targeting ultra-nationalists in Ukraine.
Putin also praised Russian troops saying they were acting in a “courageous and professional manner”.
“They are successfully solving the most important task of ensuring the security of our people and our Fatherland,” Putin said.
Germany and Italy were hesitant to apply the measure, but most EU countries were in favour of it, two officials said on condition of anonymity.
The asset freeze on Putin and Lavrov was first reported by the Financial Times based on three sources who said neither of the Russians would be subject to an EU travel ban in order to keep diplomatic channels open.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday the new EU sanctions package targeted “the highest officials” in Russia.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said as he arrived for the EU meeting in Brussels with his counterparts that, given Russia’s undeterred military action on Ukraine, further sanctions were likely.
“This (latest packet of sanctions) isn’t enough. We need to choke the (Russian) system and in particular further target the oligarchs,” he said.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to destroy Ukraine’s statehood and warned that the “security” of its President Volodymyr Zelensky was at risk.
“This is total war. Putin has decided… to take Ukraine off the map of nations,” Le Drian told France Inter radio.
“The Donbas issue is just a pretext,” he said, referring to the area of eastern Ukraine that is partly controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
“What Putin wants is Ukraine’s submission, and he will pursue his offensive until the end,” he added.
“President Zelensky’s security is a central element of all that’s happening,” he said, adding: “We are ready to help him if necessary.”
But Le Drian refused to be drawn on whether such help could extend to exfiltration of the president from Ukraine.
Zelensky had said early Friday that he and his family remained in Ukraine, despite Russia identifying him as “target number one”.
Le Drian said France was also “worried” about a possible Russian military offensive against Moldova and Georgia, two other ex-Soviet states.
He denounced “a Russian drift toward interference” in other countries, noting Putin’s repeated insistence on his country’s alleged historical grievances since the fall of the Soviet Union.
French officials have warned that the crisis could quickly escalate along NATO’s eastern flank, warning that Putin could also test the West’s resolve by seeking to take control of the breakaway region of Transnistria, which has declared independence from Moldova, or other former Soviet territories.
Lithuania, a Baltic state that is now a member of the NATO defence alliance, on Thursday decreed a state of emergency after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Putin is reinventing history. He wants to rebuild an empire, demonstrate his power by all means,” Le Drian said.
“This is a new reality. This is no longer like during the Cold War, because then there was no war. What’s new is that this is war in the heart of Europe,” he said.
As US lawmakers raced Thursday to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, allies of Donald Trump wasted no time in placing the blame squarely with President Joe Biden, saying his administration had emboldened Moscow with a series of policy blunders.
Prominent political figures and commentators on the right dropped the longstanding custom of joining Democrats to speak with one voice in times of international crisis — accusing the president of weakness and even rallying to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s side.
“Trump did the impossible and brought peace to the Middle East. Biden did the impossible and brought war to Europe,” said Arizona congressman Paul Gosar, one of Trump’s most loyal backers, who has been accused of ties with white nationalists.
“Vladimir Putin saw how weak President Biden has been as a world leader and took complete advantage of it. This will be yet another crisis to add to his failing resume,” added Trump-endorsed Michigan representative Lisa McClain.
As explosions rang out in Kyiv late Wednesday, Trump himself appeared on Fox News to falsely blame the invasion on the “rigged election” that ended his tenure, accusing Biden of “probably sleeping right now.”
But the former president, who has been making false accusations that the 2020 election was stolen from him since his defeat to Biden, appeared to have a poor grasp of the developments.
In a humiliating gaffe, he seemed to believe American troops had landed in Ukraine to fight Russians and started berating the US military for not keeping the phantom operation secret before he was corrected.
‘Weak and Incompetent’
Trump — who was impeached in 2019 after withholding military aid to Ukraine while pressuring it to announce a bogus corruption investigation into the Biden family — had earlier said that Putin was “playing Biden like a drum,” and praised his “genius.”
Republicans in the House of Representatives attempted to humiliate Biden on Tuesday by tweeting a picture of him walking away from the podium after he announced sanctions against Russia.
The photo caption read: “This is what weakness on the world stage looks like.”
Other leading figures in Trump’s “America First” movement and key right-wing media voices have been blaming the violence on Biden’s chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal and accusing him of prioritizing Ukraine’s defense over-tightening US border security.
Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson told viewers on Tuesday: “It may be worth asking yourself since it is getting pretty serious, what is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much?
“Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?”
Even the establishment Republicans, traditionally foreign policy hawks, sensed blood in the water ahead of November’s crucial midterm elections, when Biden’s Democrats are expected to suffer big defeats in Congress.
Rick Scott, who runs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called Biden a “failure” and said the Russian incursion was the result of America’s enemies seeing a “weak and incompetent” US leader.
“Congress is no longer putting aside domestic rivalries in the interest of providing a strong united front externally, and this is a very bad trend,” top Democratic pollster Carly Cooperman told AFP.
“It makes us look weak, emboldens Putin, and hurts our democracy.”
The party’s moderate voices have been more circumspect.
The top Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, and Intelligence committees released a joint statement that refrained from criticizing Biden.
“Every drop of Ukrainian and Russian blood spilled in this conflict is on Putin’s hands, and his alone,” said Michael McCaul, Mike Rogers, and Mike Turner.
Former President George W. Bush focused on Putin’s “authoritarian bullying,” calling Russia’s attack “the gravest security crisis on the European continent since World War II.”
Former Republican White House nominee Mitt Romney reprised his 2012 presidential debate warning about Russia, this time blaming Biden, Trump and Obama.
“Putin’s Ukraine invasion is the first time in 80 years that a great power has moved to conquer a sovereign nation. It is without justification, without provocation, and without honor,” the Utah senator said.
UK Prime minister, Boris Johnson, has condemned Vladimir Putin’s full pronged invasion of Ukraine, which he described as a “hideous” and “barbaric” venture.
In a televised address to the British citizens, PM Johnson stated that Putin’s actions should not be allowed to ‘snuff out’ freedom being enjoyed in Ukraine with an act of ‘wanton and reckless aggression.
While condemning Putin’s action as unleashing war on the continent, Johnson sent out a hard message to the West to lend their might to lead to the eventual ‘failure’ of Russia’s incursion ‘diplomatically, politically, economically, and eventually, militarily’
‘Our mission is clear. Diplomatically, politically, economically, and eventually, militarily, this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure,’ he said.
“We cannot and will not just look away,” Johnson said in a televised address to the nation, after phoning Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky just after 4:00 am (0400 GMT) as Russian forces moved in.
Ukraine can be assured of continued UK support given that “our worst fears have now come true and all our warnings have proved tragically accurate”, the prime minister said.
Ahead of an emergency virtual meeting of G7 leaders, Johnson said the West “will agree to a massive package of economic sanctions designed in time to hobble the Russian economy”.
Similarly, Johnson’s Foreign Office minister James Cleverly suggested that Russian military commanders should stage a coup to stop Mr Putin’s ‘catastrophically bad judgement call’.
He also took swipes at Putin’s mental state after a series of rambling speeches littered with Soviet-era rhetoric, he said the president seemed to be acting ‘increasingly in isolation’ and ‘illogically’.
– ‘Unprecedented’ sanctions –
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who spoke to her US counterpart Antony Blinken Wednesday evening before Putin announced the start of military operations, joined Johnson in condemning the attack.
The foreign ministry has deployed teams to five countries in eastern Europe to support Britons leaving Ukraine, she noted.
Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he had instructed the UK Civil Aviation Authority to ensure airlines avoid Ukraine airspace “to keep passengers and crew safe”.
The UK slapped sanctions Tuesday on five Russian banks and three billionaires, in what Johnson called “the first barrage” of measures in response to the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine.
Leading members of Johnson’s ruling Conservatives, as well as the main opposition Labour party, have urged him to hit the Kremlin as hard as possible with the new sanctions.
Foreign office minister James Cleverly vowed London would respond with “unprecedented” steps “to punish this aggression”.
“Those sanctions will be laid today and over forthcoming days to really prevent Russia from funding this invasion,” he told the BBC.
“The sanctions package that will be put in response to this is already actually having an effect,” Cleverly added, noting record falls Thursday on the Russian stock market and a slump in the ruble’s value.
Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, has sent out warning shots to those willing to compromise the security of his nation saying they should be prepared to face dire consequences.
Putin had announced a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday with explosions heard soon after across the country and its foreign minister warning a “full-scale invasion” was underway.
Shortly after the announcement, explosions were heard in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and several other cities,
Weeks of intense diplomacy and the imposition of Western sanctions on Russia failed to deter Putin, who had massed between 150,000 and 200,000 troops along the borders of Ukraine.
“We are ready for any outcome,” was what the Russian strongman uttered in a televised message on Thursday morning.
“Whoever will try to stop us and further create threats to our country, our people should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and lead to such consequences that you have never faced in your history.”
“Its goal is the protection of the people who during eight years suffer from abuse and genocide from the Kyiv’s regime,” he said in defence of the military offensive
Despite the incursion by Russia, a close ally to Putin, President Alexander Lukashenko. has claimed that Belarusian troops are not taking part in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,
“Our troops are taking no part in this operation,” Lukashenko said.
He also said he had “personally suggested” to Putin for “a number of the Russian armed forces” to stay in the south of the country despite joint military drills coming to an end.
End To Diplomatic Ties
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced Thursday that Ukraine has cut diplomatic ties with Russia after Moscow launched its full-scale invasion.
Zelenskiy made this known in an address to the nation, where he likened Russia’s bold move to that of the Third Reich of Nazi Germany.
The Ukrainian leader called on everyone with combat experience to take up arms, asked for blood donors and guaranteed an amnesty to “all those who are now under sanctions but are ready to fight with Russia.”
Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said Ukraine’s forces were “waging heavy combat” and repelling Russian advances in some parts
Reports from Ukraine claim a death toll of about 40 people so far amid Russia’s invasion. It is however unclear whether the casualties included civilians.