Ukraine, Russia ready for talks; Putin puts nuclear forces on alert

In the face of a massive Western response to President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, which stated it had resisted Russian ground forces approaching its major cities, Putin ordered his military command to put Russia’s nuclear deterrent on full alert on Sunday.

The US retaliated by saying Putin was escalating the war in a “completely unacceptable” manner, despite indicators that Russia’s largest assault on a European state since WWII was not yielding quick tactical successes.

Negotiations with Moscow will take place near the Belarusian-Ukrainian border, according to the Ukrainian presidency’s office. The Kremlin announced that negotiations had begun.

Nearly 400,000 Ukrainian people, mostly women and children, have fled to neighbouring nations as missiles rain down on Ukrainian cities. On Sunday, hundreds of people were stuck in Kyiv, waiting for trains to transport them west, away from the violence.

Despite Russian shelling of civilian infrastructure, the capital remains in the hands of the Ukrainian administration, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy rallying his people.

According to the WHO, medical oxygen supplies are running low. Despite being targeted by gunfire the day before, a blood bank was overflowing with donors, according to a doctor.

Putin, who has termed the invasion as a “special military operation,” added a worrisome new element to the mix when he ordered Russia’s deterrence forces, which include nuclear-weapons-carrying units, to remain on high alert.

He mentioned NATO leaders’ hostile rhetoric as well as the West’s economic sanctions against Russia.

“As you can see, not only do Western countries take unfriendly measures against our country in the economic sphere – I’m referring to the illegal sanctions that everyone is well aware of – but also the top officials of leading NATO countries allow themselves to make aggressive statements in our country,” Putin said on state television.

Putin already alluded to his nuclear weapons in a speech announcing the invasion’s launch on Thursday, warning that any country attempting to thwart it would face “consequences that you have never seen in your history.”

On the same day, France’s Foreign Minister responded that Putin should remember that NATO is a nuclear alliance as well.

“This is not ‘deterrence’ on Putin’s behalf; this is a threat,” Patricia Lewis, director of Chatham House’s international security programme, stated.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said Putin’s directive was an attempt to put pressure on Kyiv during the talks, but the country would not be intimidated.

“President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is completely intolerable,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told CBS.

According to a US defence official, Washington is trying to figure out what Putin’s announcement means in concrete terms, but it has heightened the risk of a miscalculation. Ukraine is receiving military aid from the United States and numerous other Western countries.

On Sunday, Western countries expanded their prohibition on Russian airlines using their airspace, allowing Russian planes to fly almost westward.

In the toughest economic penalties against Moscow yet, the US and Europe announced on Saturday that significant Russian banks will be barred from using the primary global payments system SWIFT, as well as other measures aimed at limiting Moscow’s use of a $630 billion war fund.

Rolling anti-invasion rallies have taken place around the world in recent days, including in Russia, which has cracked down hard, arresting an extra 1,700 demonstrators on Sunday, bringing the total number of arrests to 4,000.

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