Peace talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials are taking place today on the Belarusian border

Putin puts Russia’s nuclear deterrent on ‘high alert’

Vladimir Putin has put Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent forces on alert and dramatically increased tensions in his confrontation with the West over his invasion of Ukraine.

The United States immediately condemned the Russian president’s latest escalation as “completely unacceptable”.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss had previously warned that any use of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield against Ukrainian forces would constitute an “extremely serious escalation” of the conflict.

Russian television footage showed Putin meeting with his defense minister and chief of staff and instructing them to subject nuclear deterrence to a “special regime of combat use.”

He cited “aggressive statements” by Western powers and tough economic sanctions – which include the exclusion of Russian banks from the global Swift payments system – as reasons for the action.

“Western countries are not only unkind to our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members have made aggressive statements about our country,” he said.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “President Putin continues to escalate this war in a way that is totally unacceptable.”

The moves came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that he had agreed to hold talks with a Russian delegation at the Ukraine-Belarus border.

The Ukrainian leader had previously rejected an offer of talks in Belarus, saying the Russian ally had been a launch pad for invading his country.

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