Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday ordered Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces to be on alert amid his ongoing attack on Ukraine.
Putin blamed the move on statements from member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and on statements from western nations.
“Dear colleagues, as you see, Western countries are not only taking hostile actions toward our country in the economic sphere—I am talking about the illegitimate sanctions everybody knows about,” Putin said to his top advisors.
“But more importantly, senior officials of leading NATO countries make aggressive statements against our country. That is why I order the Minister of Defense and the Chief of the General Staff to put the deterrent forces of the Russian army in a special regime of duty,” he added.
The move means the Russian president has ordered the country’s nuclear weapons to be prepared for the increased possibility of launch, The Washington Post reported.
The Russian government previously said there would be harsh retaliation for any nation that intervened on Ukraine’s behalf, threatening a “strong” and a “painful” response from Moscow to sanctions meant to impede Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
“There should be no doubt that sanctions will receive a strong response, not necessarily symmetrical, but finely tuned and painful to the American side,” Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said on Wednesday, Insider previously reported.
The White House on Friday announced it would place personal sanctions against Putin, a rare move by the US that followed similar decisions by the European Union and the UK.
Russia previously warned it would also cut off ties with the US if Putin was sanctioned. A Kremlin spokesperson in January said such actions would be “an outrageous measure that is comparable to a break in relations.”
Russian forces last week attacked Ukraine unprovoked. To justify the invasion, Putin pushed several false narratives, including that the Ukrainian government was committing genocide against ethnic Russians, a claim for which there is no evidence.
Putin’s also said the large-scale invasion is to prevent the further expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.