‘Unthinkable and irresponsible’: Foreign Minister Penny Wong condemns Vladimir Putin’s national address on war in Ukraine English Headline

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has condemned Vladimir Putin’s latest escalation in its invasion of Ukraine, following the Russian President’s extraordinary address to the nation overnight. 

In a televised speech on Wednesday President Putin said Russia was prepared to use “any means available to use” in a thinly veiled threat alluding to Russia’s nuclear arsenal. 

The President also ordered the partial mobilisation of 300,000 military reservists to bolster the nation’s forces in Ukraine, a move that has sparked protests across Russia.

Speaking from New York on Thursday, Ms Wong issued a blunt condemnation of Putin’s latest escalation in the conflict against Ukraine.

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“Overnight we saw Mr Putin making threats to use all means at his disposal. These threats are unthinkable, and they are irresponsible,” she said.

“His claims of defending Russia’s territorial integrity are untrue, no sham referendum will make them true.

“Russia alone is responsible for this illegal and immoral war and peace must first lie with Russia withdrawing from Ukrainian territory.”

The Russian President on Wednesday accused the West of “nuclear blackmail”, claiming Western nations encouraged Kyiv to shell the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

“To those who allow themselves to make such statements about Russia, I would like to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and for some components more modern than those of the NATO countries,” he said in his address.

“And if the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff.”

Putin’s reference to “territorial integrity” comes as four Russian-controlled regions in Ukraine have called for referendums on joining Russia. 

Voting will take place between September 23 and 27 in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, Luhansk and occupied parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

If the regions were to integrate into Russia it would mark a huge escalation in the war as Moscow would be able to justify that it is defending its own territory against Ukrainian troops.

Ukraine, however, has labelled the referendums as a “stunt” and accused Russia of attempting to recuperate its losses on the battlefield. 

“Sham ‘referendums’ will not change anything,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.

“Russia has been and remains an aggressor illegally occupying parts of Ukrainian land. 

“Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say.”

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