Kremlin: annexed Ukrainian lands protected by Russian nuclear weapons

Kremlin: annexed Ukrainian lands protected by Russian nuclear weapons

Fresh nuke fears as Kremlin warns four invaded Ukrainian regions are under the protection of its nuclear arsenal after Kyiv begged West for powerful air defence systems

  • Kremlin asked whether occupied Ukraine is under Russia’s ‘nuclear umbrella’ 
  • Putin’s spokesman said four regions ‘protected the same as Russia’s territory’ 
  • It is clearest indication yet that Moscow would resort to nukes to protect them 
  • Comes as Russia hits Ukrainian power plants and Kyiv begs for air defences 

Four occupied regions of Ukraine that Vladimir Putin annexed to Russia are under the protection of Moscow’s nuclear arsenal, the Kremlin said today. 

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told reporters that the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions are ‘inalienable parts of the Russian Federation [and] their security is provided for at the same level as the rest of Russia’s territory.’

It is the clearest indication yet that Moscow would use its nuclear weapons to protect them, and comes as Putin steps up his war in Ukraine by targeting Ukrainian energy and water facilities. 

Kyiv has begged its western allies for more air defences to help protect its power plants, as President Zelensky says a third have been destroyed in a little over a week just as winter is setting in.

Moscow considers occupied Ukraine to be part of its territory and ‘protected the same as Russia’, the Kremlin has said in the clearest indication yet Putin would use nukes (file)

Peskov made his remarks on a conference call with journalists, one of whom asked whether occupied parts of Ukraine are now under Moscow’s ‘nuclear umbrella’.

‘All these territories are inalienable parts of the Russian Federation and they are all protected,’ he said.

‘Their security is provided for at the same level as [it is for] the rest of Russia’s territory.’

Russian nuclear doctrine – the framework that spells out when atomic weapons could be used – permits their use when ‘the existence of the state is threatened’.

By extending the borders of the state into Ukraine, at least in the Kremlin’s eyes, Putin has created a pre-text for using them by saying Ukrainian attacks aimed at liberating them are a threat to Russia itself.

Kyiv’s troops are currently advancing in three out of the four regions, and captured a significant amount of territory in Kherson two weeks ago.

Putin said last month that Moscow was ready to use nuclear weapons if necessary to defend Russia’s “territorial integrity”. 

Meanwhile President Joe Biden said on Oct. 6 that his threat had brought the world closer to “Armageddon” than at any time since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Nearly eight months into his invasion of Ukraine, some analysts believe the likelihood of Putin resorting to nuclear weapons has increased since his army suffered a series of major defeats. 

Putin’s ally Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, warned the West last week against backing Russia into a corner.

Other analysts have argued the nuclear risk is overstated, suggesting it would be suicidal for Putin to embark on such an escalation.

NATO is conducting nuclear preparedness exercises this week and has said it expects Russia to hold its own nuclear drills imminently, but Peskov said he had no information on that.

Putin claims to have annexed four Ukrainian regions that his forces at least partially occupy, but they are currently being pushed back in three of them

“There is an established system of notifications to inform about the conduct of exercises, and this is carried out through the channels of the Ministry of Defence,” he said.

Putin last month proclaimed that the territories Moscow was taking from Ukraine would be part of Russia “for ever”. But Russia does not wholly control any of the four regions and has yet to define their borders.

The annexation was condemned as illegal by Ukraine, its Western allies and an overwhelming majority of countries in the United Nations General Assembly.

Russia has lost ground in the four regions even since it claimed control over them in a lavish Kremlin ceremony on Sept. 30. Peskov said work was still under way to integrate them into Russia’s legal, economic and security systems.

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