What to know as Putin warns about nuclear force

Vladimir Putin put his nuclear forces on heightened alert on Sunday in an unprecedented escalation of tension with the West since the collapse of the Soviet Union following Russia’s massive conventional assault on Ukraine, which entered its fourth day with fighting on the streets of the country. biggest city.

Here’s what to know about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the security crisis in Eastern Europe:

RUSSIA PUTS NUCLEAR FORCES ON ALERT

In a shocking move that immediately exposed fears that many thought had been buried forever from the Cold War of the previous century, Putin ordered Russian nuclear weapons to be readied for increased launch readiness, increasing tensions with Europe and the United States on the conflict which is dangerously close to spreading beyond the former borders of the defunct USSR

Russia’s president has told his defense minister and army chief of general staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces on a “special combat duty regime”.

He said major NATO powers had made “aggressive statements” toward Russia in addition to tough economic sanctions and the removal of major Russian banks from the SWIFT banking system.

RUSSIA AND UKRAINE WILL TIE

After rejecting Putin’s offer to meet in the Belarusian town of Homel on the grounds that their common neighbor was facilitating Russia’s assault, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to send a Ukrainian delegation to meet his Russian counterparts at a time and at an unspecified place on the Belarusian border. .

The announcement comes hours after Russia announced that its delegation had flown to Belarus to await talks. Ukrainian officials initially rejected the move, saying any talks should take place outside of Belarus, a country that has directly backed Putin by allowing Russia to use its territory as transit ground.

Zelenskyy, who refused to give up Kiev, designated Warsaw, Bratislava, Istanbul, Budapest or Baku as alternative places for talks, before accepting the Belarusian border.

The Kremlin later added that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had offered to help negotiate an end to the fighting during a call with Putin. It was unclear whether the Russian leader had accepted.

SPREAD CONTROL

Attempting to besiege the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, Russian forces focused on cutting off the country’s southern coast and isolating it from the sea, while probing Kharkiv’s interior defences.

Ukrainians awoke on Sunday to street fighting in the northeastern city of 1.4 million people about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) south of the border with Russia. The administration of regional authorities said Ukrainian forces had engaged Russian troops inside the city and asked civilians not to leave their homes.

The immediate fate of the Russian advance was uncertain, but with the Ukrainians volunteering in droves to fight back alongside regular army units, it appeared that the city’s defenses offered stiff resistance. After previously ordering men between the ages of 18 and 60 not to leave the country, Ukrainian officials said on Sunday they were releasing prisoners with military experience who want to take up arms for their country.

The ground attack came after the Russians blew up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv, according to Ukrainian officials who ordered residents to cover their windows with a damp cloth given the “environmental disaster” it represented.

The British Ministry of Defense said that while overnight skirmishes in Kyiv had been less intense than Friday night, Russian forces were trying to encircle the city. The capital remains in lockdown after its mayor decreed a curfew from 5 p.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told The Associated Press on Sunday that he believed some of the Russian attackers were within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the city center and that he feared a long siege.

“Right now we have electricity, right now we have water and heating in our homes, but the infrastructure is destroyed… I guess we don’t have so much time,” said Klitschko.

MOST FLEE, SOME RETURN TO FIGHT

The number of people fleeing Europe’s biggest armed conflict since World War II has risen to 368,000 Ukrainians – mostly women and children – who have reached neighboring countries, the UN agency said. the refugees. This figure more than doubles the agency’s estimate from the previous day.

The line of vehicles at the Polish-Ukrainian border stretched for 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) and those fleeing had to endure long waits in freezing temperatures overnight. More than 100,000 people have entered Poland, according to Polish officials.

Amid the rush to escape bombs and tanks, there was also what looked like a trickle of brave men and women who wanted to return home to defend Ukraine or help others do so.

At a border crossing in southern Poland, Associated Press reporters spoke to people lined up against the grain. They included a group of about 20 Ukrainian truckers who worked in Europe and wanted to face the fight.

GERMAN MILITARY CHANGE

A day after Germany announced it would send military aid to Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his government would increase its own defense spending to rearm amid uncertainty over the extent of Putin’s ambitions.

Scholz’s pledge to dedicate 100 billion euros to a special fund for its armed forces would lift Germany’s defense spending above 2% of GDP, finally satisfying a long-standing demand from NATO allies for Europe’s largest economy to do more for the continent’s security.

Late Saturday, Germany announced that it would send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 “Stinger” surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine. These weapons are in addition to the 400 German-made anti-tank weapons that Germany has also approved for shipment from the Netherlands, as well as 9 D-30 howitzers and ammunition from Estonia.

RUSSIANS AGAINST THE WAR

Defying police repression, protesters marched through city centers from Moscow to Siberia chanting “No to war”.

In St. Petersburg, where dozens gathered in the city center, police in riot gear grabbed protesters and dragged some into police vans, even though the demonstration was peaceful. According to rights group OVD-Info which tracks political arrests, as of Sunday afternoon police had arrested at least 356 Russians in 32 cities for anti-war protests.

AN AIRSPACE CLOSER TO RUSSIA

Italy and Austria have joined a growing list of European countries that have closed their airspace to all Russian planes. They follow Great Britain, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Luxembourg.

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