Russia will use its largest and most-powerful nukes to defend the territory it occupies in Ukraine, a staunch ally of Vladimir Putin has insisted today.
Dmitry Medvedev, who served as a stand-in for Putin from 2008 to 2012, vowed the territories will become part of Russia when referendums are held this week – after which ‘any Russian weapons’ will be used to defend them.
That includes ‘strategic nuclear weapons’ such as Putin’s giant new Sarmat missile, Medvedev said, and ‘weapons based on new principles’ – likely a reference to hypersonic technology that the Kremlin claims is invulnerable to air defences.
‘The Western establishment [and] all citizens of the NATO countries need to understand that Russia has chosen its own path. There is no way back,’ he added.
Russia will use its largest nuclear weapons to defend its new territories in Ukraine, a staunch Putin ally has said (pictured, Sarmat nuclear missile)
Dmitry Medvedev, head of the Russian security council, said Russia’s hypersonic weapons could strike the West as he issued new threat today
Medvedev spoke out a day after Putin gave a fire-and-brimstone speech in which he issued a fresh nuclear threat against the West, telling world leaders: ‘I’m not bluffing.’
But Liz Truss, the UK Prime Minister, hit back in a speech at the UN last night – telling Putin the West would not be ‘cowed’ by nuclear blackmail.
She vowed billions more in support for Ukraine, and said that Britain would not stop arming the country until Russia is defeated.
US President Joe Biden was similarly defiant, pledging the West will ‘stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression, period.’
He added: ‘A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’
Putin also announced the ‘partial mobilisation’ of Russia’s military reserves yesterday, including those with combat experience and ‘special skills’ the army needs.
It marks the first time since World War Two that Russia has press-ganged its population into the army, and comes in the wake of another humiliating defeat.
Ukraine last week scored a major victory by routing Russia’s army to the east of Kharkiv, leaving troops fighting for control of the Donbas vulnerable.
Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defence minister, said 300,000 Russian men will now be conscripted and sent to the front – twice the size of the initial invading force – in the hopes of stopping the rot and capturing the whole of the Donbas region.
Putin has been forced to call up his military reserves as his war in Ukraine fails, prompting young Russian men to try and flee the country last night
Queues of cars trying to get out of Russia form on the country’s border with Georgia hours after Putin announced mobilisation
Videos have revealed what appear to be the first bus-loads of men departing from some of Russia’s remotest regions towards the frontlines today.
But experts and analysts have said the reinforcements are unlikely to turn the tide of the war in Putin’s favour, and may actually hurt him by angering the population.
Overnight, there were protests in around 30 Russian cities against the war with hundreds of people arrested.
Thousands more tried to flee the country to escape the draft, with plane tickets to visa-free nations selling out within hours.
Huge traffic jams and queues also built up at border points overnight, while social media was flooded with messages – including wives threatening to break their husband’s bones to make them unfit to fight.
Russia is now almost seven months into what was supposed to be a days-long war to topple the Ukrainian government and install a loyal puppet in its place.
Instead, Putin has found himself bogged down in a grinding attritional war against a dogged enemy backed by Western arms and money.
His military has made some gains – capturing territory in the south and east equivalent to the size of Belgium – and now appears to be trying to consolidate.
Putin yesterday announced referendums that will take place in the occupied regions of Ukraine, on whether or not to become part of the mainland.
A man is carried away by security personnel in Moscow tonight as thousands took to the streets to protest against the war and the mobilisation of reservists
A woman is carried away by Russian police in Moscow tonight during a demonstration against the Russian president’s latest escalation in the Ukraine conflict
A man is dragged away by Russian security forces at a protest in Moscow tonight against Vladimir Putin’s order for the mobilisation of military reservists
When – and not if – the sham votes pass, he vowed to us ‘all means’ to defend them.
That spooked nuclear experts, because Russia’s long-standing policy is that it can use nukes to defend itself in the event of an ‘existential threat’ to the country.
Putin suggested attacks on the ‘new territories’ may be considered such a threat, which was underlined by Medvedev today.
He wrote on Telegram: ‘Results of the decisions of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of 09/21/22
‘1. Referendums will be held, and the Donbass republics and other territories will be admitted to Russia.
‘2. The protection of all the territories that have joined will be significantly strengthened by the Russian Armed Forces.
‘3. Russia announced that not only mobilization capabilities, but also any Russian weapons, including strategic nuclear weapons and weapons based on new principles, could be used for such protection.
‘Therefore, various retired idiots with generals’ stripes do not need to scare us with talk about a NATO strike on Crimea.
‘Hypersonics are guaranteed to be able to reach targets in Europe and the United States much faster.
‘But the Western establishment, in general, all citizens of the NATO countries need to understand that Russia has chosen its own path. There is no way back.’