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Putin Raises the Alert Level for Nuclear Troops, Raising Concerns

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The Ukrainian capital is preparing to host the World Cup. On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin dramatically escalated East-West tensions by ordering Russian nuclear forces to be placed on high alert, while Ukraine’s embattled leader agreed to hold talks with Moscow as Putin’s troops and tanks advanced further into the country, closing in on the country’s capital.

Putin issued an instruction to strengthen the readiness of Russia’s nuclear weapons in response to “aggressive comments” by NATO and strong financial penalties, heightening worries that the invasion of Ukraine may result in nuclear war, whether on purpose or by accident. ‘The Russian commander is potentially putting in play forces that, if there is a mistake, could make things a whole lot more deadly,’ said a senior United States defence official speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the quickly evolving military operations in eastern Ukraine.

Putin’s order came at a time when Russian soldiers were encountering fierce resistance from Ukrainian defences. Despite significant gains throughout the nation, Moscow has so far been unable to gain complete control of Ukraine’s airspace. Officials from the United States said they think the invasion has been more difficult and time-consuming than the Kremlin anticipated, but this may change as Moscow adjusts.

According to a senior American intelligence official with direct knowledge of current U.S. intelligence assessments, the conflict could become significantly more complicated if Russia receives military assistance from neighbouring Belarus, which is expected to send troops into Ukraine as soon as Monday, according to the official. The official, who requested anonymity because he was not allowed to speak publicly, said that whether Belarus would join the battle is dependent on the outcome of the Ukraine-Russia negotiations, which are scheduled to take place in the next days.

In the face of rising pressure, Western governments have said that they would tighten sanctions and purchase and supply weaponry to Ukraine, including Stinger missiles for taking down helicopters and other aircraft, as well as other military equipment. In addition, European nations would provide fighter planes to Ukraine, according to EU foreign policy leader Josep Borrell. Meanwhile, the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced arrangements for a meeting with a Russian delegation at an undisclosed site near the Belarusian border in the coming weeks.

It was not immediately apparent when the meeting would take place, or what the Kremlin hoped to achieve in the end, whether via hypothetical border discussions or, more generally, through its military campaign in Ukraine. According to Western diplomats, Putin intends to depose Ukraine’s government and replace it with a regime of his choosing, thereby resurrecting Moscow’s Cold War-era dominance in the country.

It was during this period of rapid growth that reports of isolated violence in Kyiv emerged. Battles erupted in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, as well as important ports in the country’s southern region, which were targeted by Russian troops. According to Oleksiy Arestovich, an assistant to Zelenskyy’s office, Russian troops had captured Berdyansk, a Ukrainian city with a population of 100,000 on the shore of the Azov Sea, by late Sunday. According to Arestovich, Russian soldiers have also advanced on Kherson, another city in Ukraine’s southern region. Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov that is considered a priority Russian target, is now “holding on,” he claimed.

With Russian forces closing in on Kyiv, a metropolis of over 3 million people, the mayor of the Ukrainian capital voiced scepticism that citizens would be able to flee the city. Armed individuals who are prepared to protect the city have been distributed by authorities. Also, Ukraine is releasing inmates who have military experience and are willing to fight, as well as teaching individuals to create firebombs.

Missiles have been fired at a radioactive waste disposal facility in Kyiv, according to the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, although there have been no reports of damage to the structures or evidence of the discharge of radioactive material. The watchdog said that it had been notified of the event by Ukrainian officials, but did not indicate which side it felt was responsible for the missile launch.

In Mariupol, where Ukrainians were attempting to stave off the Russian invasion, a medical staff at a local hospital worked frantically to save the life of a 6-year-old girl dressed in unicorn pyjamas who had been killed by Russian artillery. In the midst of the rescue effort, a doctor in blue medical scrubs, who was pumping oxygen into the child, peered right into the Associated Press video camera that was recording the situation.

“Show this to Putin,” he said loudly at the time. “The tears in this child’s eyes, and the wailing of the physicians.” Their resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful, and the girl was pronounced dead on the trolley, her jacket stained with blood.

Faina Bystritska, who lived in the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv about 900 kilometres (560 miles) away, was in danger.

According to Bystritska, an 87-year-old Jewish survivor of World War II, “I wish I had never lived to witness this.” Sirens are blaring nearly continually in the city, which is around 150 kilometres (90 miles) from Kyiv, according to her.

  • Residents of Chernihiv have been instructed not to turn on any lights “in order not to attract their notice,” according to Bystritska, who has been residing in a corridor away from any windows in order to better protect herself.
  • “The window glass is continuously shaky, and there is this continual thunderous roar,” she described the experience.
  • Between now and then, the EU’s top official detailed plans for the 27-nation union to block its airspace to Russian flights and purchase weapons for the Ukrainian military.
  • According to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the EU would also prohibit certain pro-Kremlin media outlets from broadcasting.

Also on Friday, President Barack Obama said that the United States will supply Stinger missiles to Ukraine as part of a package that was authorised by the White House on Thursday. Germany has also committed to provide 500 Stingers as well as other military equipment.

In addition, the United Nations General Assembly, which has 193 members, has set an extraordinary session on Monday to discuss Russia’s invasion.

In ordering the nuclear alert, Putin highlighted not just words made by NATO members, but also the harsh financial penalties imposed by the West on Russia, which included Putin himself.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in broadcast remarks that “Western nations are not only conducting hostile acts against our country in the economic area, but also senior officials from prominent NATO members have made harsh statements towards our country.”

Officials from the United States Department of Defense will not divulge the country’s current nuclear alert level, other than to emphasise that the military is always prepared to protect the country and its allies.

In an interview with ABC, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Putin is reverting to the strategy he used in the weeks leading up to the invasion, “which is to fabricate threats that do not exist in order to justify additional action.”

In the immediate aftermath of Putin’s directive, it was unclear what it meant practically. Russia and the United States normally maintain land- and submarine-based nuclear forces that are on alert and ready to fight at all times, but nuclear-capable bombers and other aircraft are not on alert or ready to fight at all times.

Ukrainians huddled in their houses, underground garages, and subway stations, fearful that a full-scale Russian invasion was on its way to their city. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said that food and medication supplies were running short.

In Klitschko’s words, “right now, the most essential issue is to protect our nation.”

Olena Dudnik, 86, of downtown Kharkiv, said she and her husband were practically pushed from their bed by the pressure burst of a neighbouring explosion, which she described as “awesome.”

“We are going through a lot right now,” she remarked over the phone. “We don’t have much food in the pantry, and I’m concerned that the stores won’t have much either when they reopen,” says the author. “I just want the shooting to stop, and for people to stop being murdered,” she said. A startling gap in Russia’s efforts to gain complete control of Ukraine’s airspace has provided outgunned Ukrainian troops with a window of opportunity to stall the advance of Russian ground forces. It is customary for an invading force to prioritise achieving what the military refers to as “air dominance” as one of their top aims.

However, despite the fact that Russian soldiers are being hindered by Ukrainian opposition, fuel shortages, and other logistical obstacles, a senior United States military official believes this will change in the near future. “We have reached day four. It is expected that the Russians would pick up on the lessons and adapt,” the person added.

  • In the midst of the uncertainty, the exact number of victims from Europe’s greatest land combat since World War II remained unknown.
  • Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said on Sunday that 352 people, including 14 children, have been killed in the country’s conflict. According to the report, a further 1,684 persons, including 116 children, were injured.
  • Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry, did not provide specific statistics for the country’s dead and injured, but he did say that Russia’s casualties were “many times” fewer than those suffered by Ukraine.

Along with military aid, the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom decided to exclude some Russian banks from participating in the SWIFT system, which transfers money between thousands of banks and other financial institutions across the globe.

Since the invasion, Russia’s economy has taken a beating, with the currency plummeting and the central bank urging for calm in order to avert bank runs. In spite of Russia’s assertions that its attack on Ukraine’s borders is directed only against military objectives, it has also targeted infrastructure such as bridges, schools, and civilian communities.

Isachenkov contributed reporting from Moscow. Associated Press writers Ellen Knickmeyer, Eric Tucker, Robert Burns, and Hope Yen in Washington; James LaPorta in Miami; Francesca Ebel, Josef Federman, and Andrew Drake in Kyiv; Mstyslav Chernov and Nic Dumitrache in Mariupol, Ukraine; and other AP journalists from around the world contributed to this report. Ellen Knickmeyer, Eric Tucker, Robert Burns, and Hope Yen in Washington; James LaPorta in Miami;