It comes as Ukrainian intelligence has learned from within Belarus that “special ops” troops have been spotted loading up planes for a major attack
Russian President Vladimir Putin has put Russian nuclear deterrent forces on high alert amid tensions with the West over Ukraine.
Putin told state TV that NATO powers have made “aggressive statements” along with the West imposing hard-hitting financial sanctions against Russia, including the president himself.
He ordered the Russian defence minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty”.
The US Ambassador to the United Nations says Putin’s order shows the Russian leader is “escalating conflict in a manner that is unacceptable”.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “It means that President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable. “We have to continue to stem his actions in the strongest possible way.”
Putin is said to becoming increasingly frustrated at the slower-than-expected pace of the invasion as Russian troops have so far failed to capture the capital of Kyiv.
The military also blew up a natural gas pipeline close to the northeastern city overnight, prompting warnings of an “environmental catastrophe” by Ukrainian authorities, before their forces breached its perimeters.
Speaking on state TV, Putin said: “As you can see, not only do Western countries take unfriendly measures against our country in the economic dimension – I mean the illegal sanctions that everyone knows about very well – but also the top officials of leading NATO countries allow themselves to make aggressive statements with regards to our country.”
Also read Pravda report: Putin orders to put Russian deterrence forces on special combat duty
Today’s escalation comes as Belarus special forces are believed to be preparing to assault the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the Daily Mirror can reveal.
Ukrainian intelligence has learned from within Belarus that “special ops” troops have been spotted loading up planes for a major attack.
A senior Ukrainian source told the Daily Mirror: “If this happens it will mean Belarus has openly joined Russia in its invasion of sovereign Ukraine.
“We believe they are being targeted at Kyiv and Zhytomir.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has also refused to enter negotiations.
Earlier today, a senior Tory MP warned that Russia “could use nuclear weapons in Ukraine”.
Mr. Ellwood, chair of the Commons Defence Select Committee urged the Government to start rolling out sanctions “every day” on Russia to block Putin’s political ambitions in Ukraine.
Mr. Ellwood told BBC: “If I have a concern I would not put it beyond Putin to stoop to radical tactics to secure victory. He can’t fail and the stakes are very very high indeed.
“We need to continue to support Ukraine not just with hard power but with humanitarian aid as well.
“We also put pressure on Russia. I don’t think a day should go by when a new initiative isn’t announced.