Europe has warned against dismissing Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats, as the Russian president begins his mobilisation of as many as 300,000 soldiers.
Ukraine launched a spectacular counterattack on Russian occupied territories in the country’s eastern Kharkiv region, surprising Putin’s forces in a significant shift in the war’s momentum.
As a result, the President announced a partial mobilisation of Russian troops and issued a chilling threat to NATO countries and Ukraine not to threaten the “territorial integrity of our country”.
“Our country has different types of weapons as well, and some of them are more modern than the weapons NATO countries have,” Putin said.
“In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff.”
Speaking to the BBC, European Union’s foreign policy boss Josep Borrell said Russia had been “pushed into a corner” as a result of recent setbacks.
Despite further aggressive rhetoric by the Russian President, Mr Borrell said a diplomatic solution must be reached which restores the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”.
“Otherwise, we can finish the war, but we will not have peace, and we will have another war,” Mr Borrell said.
“Certainly it’s a dangerous moment because the Russian army has been pushed into a corner, and Putin’s reaction – threatening using nuclear arms – it’s very bad.
“When people say it is not a bluff, you have to take them seriously,” Mr Borrell said.
As Russia loses key territorial gains, the President has attempted to rush through referenda to annex the occupied territories.
The attempts to annex Russian-held territories in a bid to clear the way for mass mobilisation has raised fears of significant escalation.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the planned referenda in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia were a “further escalation” of the war.
During his landmark speech on Wednesday, the President refrained from ordering a full mobilisation which could include conscription of the wider Russian population.
But as part of the country’s renewed war efforts, Russia’s reservists and ex-serving military men will be called up to join the flailing invasion.
Russia is also expected to rapidly boost the production of weapons and other military equipment as Putin once again lashed the west’s “aggressive anti-Russia policy”.
“The West has gone too far in its aggressive anti-Russia policy, making endless threats to our country and people,” he said.
“It is our historical tradition and the destiny of our nation to stop those who are keen on global domination and threaten to split up and enslave our Motherland. Rest assured that we will do it this time as well.”
It comes after leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) condemned Putin’s renewed efforts to annex the Ukrainian regions through “sham” referenda.
In a statement released on Wednesday the leaders called out Russia’s attempts to create a “phony pretext” to seize control of large sections of Ukraine and also slammed the ratcheting up of nuclear rhetoric.
“These sham referenda initiated today by Russia and its proxies have no legal effect or legitimacy, as demonstrated by Russia’s hasty methods of organisation,” the statement said.
“In addition, we deplore deliberate Russian escalatory steps, including the partial mobilisation of reservists and irresponsible nuclear rhetoric.
“We call upon all countries to unequivocally reject these sham referenda as Russia’s attempt to give false cover to its violations of international law.”