Russia issues new nuke warning

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

Completes controversial referendums in Ukraine; Europe suspects sabotage as mysterious gas leaks hit Russian pipelines

Under the remains of a building in the city of Izium, volunteers search for the bodies of people killed during the Russian attack on Ukraine. The photo was published yesterday. Photo: Reuters

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Under the remains of a building in the city of Izium, volunteers search for the bodies of people killed during the Russian attack on Ukraine. The photo was published yesterday. Photo: Reuters

An ally of President Vladimir Putin issued a stark new nuclear warning to Ukraine and the West yesterday, as Russia began releasing the results of referendums it sees as a prelude to annexing four Ukrainian regions.

Moscow’s latest broadside came as European countries rushed to investigate unexplained, large leaks in two Russian natural gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea, posing the risk of explosions and the sinking of all ships entering the area.

The Kremlin, which has blamed technical problems for previous cuts in Russian gas supplies to Europe, said it could not rule out sabotage without saying who was to blame.

Yesterday’s nuclear warning from Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, is one of several issued by Putin and his associates in recent weeks.

Analysts say they are intended to deter Ukraine and the West by hinting at a willingness to use tactical nuclear weapons to defend newly annexed territories.

Medvedev’s warning differed from previous ones in that he predicted for the first time that the NATO military alliance would not risk nuclear war and would go straight into the Ukraine war, even if Moscow were to nuke Ukraine.

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“I believe that even in this scenario, NATO would not directly intervene in the conflict,” Medvedev said in a Telegram post. “The demagogues across the ocean and in Europe will not die in a nuclear apocalypse.”

Initial partial voting results from four regions of Ukraine partially occupied by Russia and its proxies showed an overwhelming majority in favor of joining Russia, Russia’s state-run news agency RIA reported.

It was a much-anticipated announcement after a five-day referendum that Kyiv and the West have denounced as a sham and say they will not recognize it. Ukraine called on the EU to impose new punitive sanctions in response to votes it says were held at gunpoint in many cases.

The British Ministry of Defense said Putin is expected to announce the occupied territories’ accession to the Russian Federation in a speech to parliament on September 30.

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Meanwhile, Ukrainian and Russian forces were engaged in fierce fighting in different parts of Ukraine yesterday.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Donetsk region in the east remains his country’s — and Russia’s — top strategic priority, with “particularly heavy” fighting engulfing several cities while Russian troops try to advance south and west.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the regional governor, said three civilians had been killed and 13 injured in the Donetsk region in the past 24 hours.

There were also reported clashes in the Kharkiv region to the northeast – the focus of a Ukrainian counter-offensive this month. And Ukrainian forces continued a campaign to keep bridges and other river crossings out of order to cut supply lines to Russian forces in the south.

Ukraine’s air force said it shot down three Russian-operated Iranian-made drones after an attack on the Mykolaiv region.