MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian nuclear forces put on high alert Sunday.
The order means Putin has ordered Russia’s nuclear weapons prepared for increased readiness to launch, raising the threat that the tensions could boil over into nuclear warfare.
“Top officials in leading NATO countries have allowed themselves to make aggressive comments about our country, therefore I hereby order the minister of Defense and the chief of the General Staff [of the RF Armed Forces] to place the Russian Army Deterrence Force on combat alert,” Putin said in a televised meeting, according to CNN.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov were present at the meeting.
The two leaders were ordered to put nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty.”
Not only is Putin’s latest decision a response to NATO’s so-called “aggressive comments”, but also a response to a list of sanctions western countries have put on Russia and Putin himself.
The alarming step by Russia came as street fighting broke out in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and Russian troops squeezed strategic ports in the country’s south, advances that appeared to mark a new phase of Russia’s invasion following a wave of attacks on airfields and fuel facilities elsewhere in the country.