April 23. 2024. 6:49

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Russia’s Putin warns sending Western troops to Ukraine risks nuclear war

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday (29 February) that Western support for Ukraine risks triggering a global war, in his most explicit threat to use nuclear weapons since he ordered the full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago.

Addressing Russia’s State Duma and other members of the country’s elite for his annual State of the Nation speech, Putin repeated his routine accusation that the West is bent on weakening Russia.

Western support for Ukraine “really risks a conflict using nuclear weapons, which means the destruction of all of civilisation,” Putin said.

Speaking ahead of a 15-17 March presidential election in which he is certain to be re-elected for another six-year term, Putin lauded what he said was Russia’s vastly modernised nuclear arsenal, the largest in the world.

“[Western nations] must realise that we also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory. All this really threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilisation. Don’t they get that?!” he said.

Referring to French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement that he would not exclude sending Western troops to Ukraine this week, Putin said Russia remembered “the fate of those who once sent their contingents to our country”.

“Now, the consequences for possible interveners will be much more tragic,” he said, adding: “They think this is some kind of game. They are blinded by their own superiority complex.”

Russia’s war in Ukraine has triggered the worst crisis in Moscow’s relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Putin confirmed Russia would beef up troop deployments on its border with NATO countries to “neutralise threats” created by Sweden and Finland joining the Western military alliance.

He said Russia would work to “create the outlines for equal and inseparable security in Eurasia”, adding that “without a sovereign, strong Russia no stable world order is possible”.

Throughout the speech, Putin was even more focused on the war in Ukraine than in his previous appearances.

In what could be classed as mobilisation rhetoric, the Russian leader spoke about “the absolute majority of Russians” supporting the war and “everyone” would be working together for Russia’s “common victory”.

His remarks come despite new polling showing that Russians’ support for the war in Ukraine is waning.

The US-based Insitute for the Study of War (ISW) said earlier this month the Kremlin was “likely concerned” about how changing attitudes towards the war could affect the 2024 Russian presidential election.

It claimed Putin would centre his re-election campaign on “Russia’s alleged domestic stability and increased criticism of the West instead of focusing on the war”.

Chronicles, a Russian-opposition Moscow-based research group revealed that 40% of Russians support the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine without war aims being achieved.

According to the organisation, the number remained consistent throughout 2023.

This comes also as various international estimates suggest that the country has already lost more than 400,000 troops since it invaded its neighbour in February 2022, and is reportedly on course to hit the half-million mark by the end of this year.

Putin has repeatedly signalled a desire to negotiate an end to the fighting but has warned that Russia will hold onto its gains.

Read more with Euractiv

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