Vladimir Putin has threatened to use weapons of mass destruction against the West, as he announced a partial military mobilisation in an escalation of the war on Ukraine.
In an address to his nation, the Russian president warned he would use “all the means” at his disposal to “protect” his country against what he claimed was “nuclear blackmail”.
“It’s not a bluff,” he added.
Mr Putin claimed the move was “fully adequate to the threats we face, namely to protect our homeland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
In his address to the nation, he warned he would be prepared to turn to weapons of mass destruction as he accused Western leaders of threatening his country.
Mr Putin said there had been “statements of some high-ranking representatives of the leading Nato states about the possibility of using nuclear weapons of mass destruction against Russia”.
“To those who allow themselves such statements regarding Russia, I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and for separate components and more modern than those of Nato countries,” he said.
Russia’s president added: “When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal.”
A British foreign office minister said the comments were “quite concerning” when asked about the threat on Wednesday.
“It’s something that we should take very seriously because, you know, we’re not in control. I’m not sure he’s in control either really,” Gillian Keegan said.
“I mean, this is obviously an escalation and, of course, for the Russian people now they will be conscripted into this war.”
The Russian leader’s televised address to the nation comes a day after Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold votes on becoming integral parts of Russia.
The Kremlin-backed efforts to swallow up four regions could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war following Ukrainian successes.
On Wednesday, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, dismissed Russian plans to stage referendums in occupied regions as “noise” and thanked Ukraine’s allies for condemning the votes, which are scheduled to start on Friday.
Additional reporting by Associated Press