Ukraine war: US sharply warns Russia of “catastrophic consequences” of fulfilling nuclear weapons threat

The United States has warned Moscow of “catastrophic consequences” if it uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine, after Russia promised protection to Ukrainian regions that Moscow is expected to annex after widely criticized referendums.

Citizens in four regions of Ukraine voted yesterday for a fourth day in Russia-organized referendums that Kyiv and the West have branded as a sham. They say the results are predetermined and they will not recognize the results.

But by including the four regions — Luhansk and Donetsk to the east, and Zaporizhia and Kherson to the south — Moscow could portray Ukraine’s efforts to retake them as attacks on Russia itself, a warning to Kyiv and its western allies.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the US would respond to any Russian use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine.

“If Russia crosses that line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia,” Sullivan told NBC Television on Sunday. “The United States will respond decisively.”

Mr Sullivan did not say how Washington would react, but said it had privately told Moscow “more precisely what that would mean”.

His comments followed last Wednesday’s thinly veiled nuclear threat from President Vladimir Putin, who said Russia would use all arms to defend its territory.

Asked over the weekend whether Moscow would consider using nuclear weapons to defend annexed regions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russian territory, including future territory “further enshrined” in the Russian constitution, is under the “full protection of the state”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he did not believe Putin was bluffing when the Kremlin leader said Moscow was ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian-backed officials carried ballot boxes from door to door, accompanied by security officials.

Residents’ names were noted if they did not vote properly or refused to cast a ballot, he said.

The four regions represent about 15 percent of Ukraine, and Russian forces do not control all territory in those regions where fighting is still raging.

Control of these regions would follow Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 following a similar referendum there.

Voting ends today and the Russian parliament could then swiftly formalize the annexations.

Ukraine, aided by sophisticated Western weaponry, has recaptured large areas over the past month, prompting Putin last week to order Russia’s first military mobilization since World War II to enlist an additional 300,000 troops.

The move has sparked protests across Russia and forced many men of military age to flee.

Almost 17,000 Russians crossed the border into Finland over the weekend, Finnish authorities said yesterday.

More than 2,000 people have been arrested across Russia for protests against the draft, independent monitoring group OVD-Info said. Since criticism of the conflict was forbidden, the demonstrations were among the first signs of discontent since the beginning of the war.

A 25-year-old gunman opened fire on a draft office in the Siberian region of Irkutsk yesterday, the local governor said.

Clashes erupted between police and protesters in Russia’s Muslim-majority southern region of Dagestan, leading to the arrests of at least 100 people.

Ukraine’s presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak mocked Russia’s conscription campaign in a tweet yesterday, citing among its features “mile-long queues to exit” and thousands of complaints “before coffins start returning.”

Separately, Mr Zelensky said Ukrainian troops found two more mass grave sites containing the bodies of hundreds of people in the northeastern city of Izium, part of territory retaken from Russian forces this month.

The seven-month war in Ukraine has killed tens of thousands, leveled cities, fueled global inflation and sparked the worst confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when the United States and Soviet Union came closest to a nuclear conflict.

UN nuclear guard Rafael Grossi said yesterday he was ready to hold talks in Ukraine and Russia this week on establishing a safe zone at Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. He added that such a zone is urgently needed to prevent a nuclear disaster. Ukraine war: US sharply warns Russia of “catastrophic consequences” of fulfilling nuclear weapons threat

Fry Electronics Team

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