Putin places Russian nuclear deterrent on highest alert
President Vladimir Putin has placed Russia's strategic deterrence forces on “special” alert, announcing the move during a meeting, on Sunday, with his Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and armed forces Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov.
The decision applies to various weapons, both nuclear and conventional, that can be used for defense and offense alike. According to Moscow's military definition, they are designed to “to deter aggression against Russia and its allies, as well as to defeat the aggressor, including in a war with the use of nuclear weapons.”
“Western countries are not only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic area. I'm speaking about the illegitimate sanctions that everyone is well aware of," Putin insisted. "However, the top officials of the leading NATO countries also make aggressive statements against our country as well."
The move comes amid the ongoing attack by Russia in neighboring Ukraine, launched on February 24. The military operation followed Moscow's formal recogniton of the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, which split from Kiev back in 2014.
It has prompted a massive international fallout, with the West launching a new wave of sanctions against Russia, accusing it of an “unprovoked” attack. The new restrictions have ranged from personal sanctions against top officials, including the president, to targeting the financial system of the country.