Putin says West risks nuclear war if NATO sends troops to Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin warned Western countries on Thursday that there was a genuine risk of nuclear war if they sent their own troops to fight in Ukraine, and he said Moscow had the weapons to strike targets in the West.

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Addressing parliament and other members of the country’s elite, Putin, 71, repeated his accusation that the West is bent on weakening Russia, and he suggested Western leaders did not understand how dangerous their meddling could be in what he cast as Russia’s own internal affairs.

He prefaced his warning with a specific reference to an idea, floated by French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, of European NATO members sending ground troops to Ukraine – a suggestion that was quickly rejected by the United States, Germany, Britain and others.

“(Western nations) must realise that we also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory. All this really threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilisation. Don’t they get that?!” said Putin.

Putin, who was speaking ahead of a March 15-17 presidential election when he is certain to be re-elected for another six-year term, lauded what he said was Russia’s vastly modernised nuclear arsenal, the largest in the world.

The war in Ukraine has triggered the worst crisis in Moscow’s relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and Putin has previously warned of the dangers of a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia.

Visibly angry, Putin, Russia’s paramount leader for more than two decades, suggested Western politicians recall the fate of those, like Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler and France’s Napoleon Bonaparte who unsuccessfully invaded his country in the past.

“But now the consequences will be far more tragic,” said Putin. “They think it (war) is a cartoon,” he said.

Read more‘Not at war with Russia’: European, US allies taken aback by Macron’s comments on troops in Ukraine

(Reuters)