Ukraine: Putin agrees to meet President Zelensky for talks
Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine continues to rage on as eight people were reported dead yesterday morning after a shopping centre and a number of houses were shelled in the Podilskyi district of Kyiv. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Putin of war crimes in the besieged city of Mariupol, where 300,000 citizens are trapped without food, water or power amid heavy Russian shelling. An estimated 90 percent of the city’s buildings have been damaged and destroyed, yet Ukraine has ignored Russia’s demand to give up Mariupol, saying there is “no question of surrender”.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk suggested that the assault on Mariupol is personal for Putin, because the Russian President failed to capture the city eight years earlier when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.
Putin was condemned across the world after launching the invasion of Ukraine last month and the West duly responded by hitting Russia with severe sanctions.
Yet, the leader then ordered his military to put Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert, which the US labelled “totally unacceptable”.
Putin’s decision to explicitly brandish Russia’s nuclear arsenal sent shockwaves across the western world, however there is scepticism as to whether the President would ever resort to using such weapons.
Putin would never use nuclear weapons against the West
Zelensky accused Putin of war crimes in the besieged city of Mariupol
Former Russian Foreign Secretary Mr Kozyrev, who served under Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin told the Economist that it was extremely unlikely Putin would use a nuclear bomb.
When asked if he foresaw any scenarios in which Putin would be willing to use nuclear weapons Mr Kozyrev said: “No.”
He added: “Because those forces which he allegedly ordered to high alert, other sources are allegedly saying they don’t see anything.
“It’s [an] empty threat but he plays this game ‒ and those strategic weapons which he ordered on alert…
Andrei Kozyrev served under Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin
“[Those are] suicidal weapons because if he sends a missile to Europe, at NATO or to the United States he gets two back and there is no survival for anyone.”
On February 28, Putin summoned Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Military Chief of Staff Velery Geraimov to a meeting and ordered them to “transfer the deterrence forces of the Russian army to a special mode of combat duty”.
Though the diplomatic threat was clear, Putin’s exact phrasing has confused nuclear experts, who are uncertain about what a “special mode of combat duty” specifically means.
Although the likelihood of nuclear war increased, experts are also in agreement that the threat remained at a low level.
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Zelensky urged the West to implement a no fly zone over Ukraine
Putin promised a severe Russian retaliation to any military intervention from the West in Ukraine.
In turn, NATO has so far agreed not to impose a no-fly zone above Ukraine, despite pleas from Zelensky.
However, Mr Kozyrev claimed that if Moscow sees that the West is hesitant to use all tools at their disposal, then it will extend its invasion beyond Ukraine.
He told The New-Statesman earlier this month: “That means that there are no borders.
Putin may invade other European countries if the West does not intervene claimed Mr Kozyrev
“They could next jump on, say, the Baltic states and again, count on experience that the West could act but will not, because [Russia] will threaten nuclear weapons.
“And that means, without ever resorting to nuclear weapons, they’re winning the wars with nuclear weapons.
“They will not resort to nuclear weapons unless they think they can get away with everything.”
Mr Kozyrev insisted that if Russia did manage to conquer Ukraine, the largest country in Europe by land mass besides itself, it would be emboldened to take smaller neighbouring countries.
He said: “After that, [Russia will] take, say Estonia? I mean it’s just a few hours [of] operation.”
On the Russian President, Mr Kozyrev added: “[He is] not reasonable.
“It is mind boggling for me too, what he’s doing in Ukraine, his reference to nuclear war. It’s outlandish.
“It does not mean it’s irrational.”