In one of the most startling threats to date, Putin’s chief spokesman warned Russia could resort to the use of atomic weapons should they fail to achieve their goals.
As Ukraine enters its fifth week of invasion, a key spokesman for Vladimir Putin refused to quash fears of Russia issuing a nuclear attack.
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Dmitry Peskov said Russia would consider the use of atomic weapons should they face an “existential threat” from Ukraine.
This comes as fears Russian forces could resort to more aggressive and “devastating” tactics as their on-ground assault falters.
Military analysts predict the Russian army will rely on bombings and bombardments which have the potential to incur mass civilian deaths.
Follow on for live updates.
‘Existential threat:’ Russia refuses to deny use of nuclear weapons
In a bold declaration, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary refused to quash the potential for nuclear weapons to be used in Russia’s assault on Ukraine.
CNN reports Dmitry Peskov repeatedly denied ruling out the possibility of a nuclear attack in order to achieve Russia’s military goals.
“If it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be,” Mr Peskov told CNN’s chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.
Mr Peskov doubled down on Russia’s goals to demilitarise Ukraine and accused the government of being “nationalist battalions”.
When asked about how Russia was progressing in the conflict, Mr Peskov vaguely hinted Mr Putin “hasn’t achieved” his goals to date but said it was “going on strictly in accordance with the plans and the purposes that were established beforehand”.
Footage captures cruise missiles headed for Ukraine
Footage has been shared of several cruise missiles being launched off the coast of Russia-occupied waters.
CNN confirmed the geolocation of the footage, which shows projectiles headed towards Ukraine from Sevastopol, the largest city in Crimea.
Speaking in Russian, a man’s voice can be heard saying: “It’s clear there’s a ship standing out there in the distance. It’s firing something, but where, you can’t see.”
Located at the bottom of Ukraine, Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukrainian rule in 2014. However, the territory is still internationally recognised as being a part of Ukraine.
Zelensky continues negotiations with Putin
Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky and his government have continued attempts at peace talks with Russia.
He also thanked Pope Francis and the international community for denouncing Russia’s military aggressions.
“We continue working on different levels to make sure that Russia is convinced that this atrocious war has to be stopped. We continue our difficult negotiations. This is challenging. Sometimes scandalous,” he wrote via his government’s Facebook page.
“I am grateful to all of the international intermediators who work with us and bring the true picture to Russia and convince them to see the reality of combat actions. And that the world is not going to stop the truth, our truth.”
“We will fight until the end bravely and openly,” he added.
On Wednesday morning, a statement from Elysée Palace confirmed talks between French President Emmanuel Macron and Mr Putin have also continued.
Mr Macron has publicly spoken about his support for Ukraine and have attempted to arrange a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia.
“There is currently no agreement but President Macron remains convinced of the need to continue his efforts. There is no other way out than a ceasefire and Russia’s good faith negotiations with Ukraine,” it read.
While peacetalks between Mr Zelensky and Mr Putin have yet to be slated, the Ukranian President said the failure of these talks could lead to “third World War”.
“I’m ready for negotiations with him. I was ready for the last two years. And I think that without negotiations we cannot end this war,” he told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
Forest fires spotted around Chernobyl
Satellite imagery from the European Space Agency has revealed at least seven forest fires near the Chernobyl nuclear site, stoking radiation fears.
The Ukrainian parliament (RADA) said 62 personnel were evacuated from the station and blamed the fires on the “armed aggression of the Russian Federation, namely the shelling or arson”.
A statement from RADA said that the fires within a 10km radius of “radioactive waste management infrastructure” and areas with “significant levels of radionuclide contamination”.
Three days left: Russian troops running low on supplies
The Ukrainian military says Russian forces have a mere three days worth of food, ammunition and fuel left, in claims backed by US officials.
A Pentagon representative agreed that Russian forces are “struggling on many fronts,” and that several isolated units have reported supply issues, The Guardian reports.
“It is consistent with an advance which has ground to a halt. Failures in the logistic chain has been one of the reasons they have not been as effective as they hoped,” they wrote.
The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine also claimed that Russia had resorted to “hidden mobilisation” tactics, accusing the Russian Prosecutor’s Office of offering to release all credit obligations from people who sign a contract with the army. Similar proposals have also been given to criminals in exchange for full amnesty.
“Given the total failure to replenish the military reserve, the occupiers are moving to new forms of hidden ‘mobilisation,’” a spokesperson wrote via their Facebook.
‘Nothing left’: Zelensky’s plea to the Kremlin
In a grim plea to the Kremlin, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged Russia to once again allow civilians to evacuate Mariupol.
The port city has been besieged by Russian forces and subjected to mass bombings and air strikes. For weeks now, residents have also been cut off from water, electricity and food, with several attempts to create humanitarian corridors and evacuations sabotaged by Russian attacks.
“There is nothing left there. Only ruins,” said Mr Zelensky in a video-link up with the Italian parliament.
Human Rights Watch also described it as a “freezing hellscape riddled with dead bodies and destroyed buildings”.
Reports from Tuesday morning also suggested that Russian soldiers have begun entering the city.
This comes as the city was rocked by two “super powerful bombs” on Tuesday morning, however the death toll as a result of the attack has yet to be revealed.
‘Has form:’ Biden says Russia considering chemical weapons
US President, Joe Biden said there are now “clear” signs Russia is considering the use of chemical and biological weapons against Ukraine.
Speaking at an event on Monday, Mr Biden claimed Russia “has form here – it’s used them before” but also warned that it would lead to “severe consequences” from the “united NATO front”. He said this was due to Russia falsely accusing the Ukrainian government of being in possession of similar weapons.
Since Mr Biden’s quotes emerge, there has been criticism over whether Russia has historically used chemical weapons. According to the BBC, his claims likely date back to 2018 when it was alleged two Russian nationals attempted to murder former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter using a military-grade Novichok nerve agent.
The Kremlin have repeatedly denied the accusations.
Previously, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also predicted that Russia could resort to chemical or biological weapons use in Ukraine. She also made claims that Russia could use the weapons in a “false flag operation,” in which a group orchestrates an attack and puts the blame on another party.
This can also occur when a country attacks itself but instead attempts to pin the blame on another organisation or government.
‘Dangerous new period’ in Russian war
Military analysts fear Russia’s could change tactics in its war on Ukraine as the nation’s military struggle to make inroads on the ground.
An assessment from the US-based Institute for the Study of War shared fears Russian forces may resort to bombings and bombardments, which could result in higher civilian casualties.
“If the war in Ukraine settles into a stalemate condition, Russian forces will continue to bomb and bombard Ukrainian cities, devastating them and killing civilians, even as Ukrainian forces impose losses on Russian attackers and conduct counter-attacks of their own,” the assessment from March 19 read.
“The Russians could hope to break Ukrainians’ will to continue fighting under such circumstances by demonstrating Kyiv’s inability to expel Russian forces or stop their attacks even if the Russians are demonstrably unable to take Ukraine’s cities.
“Ukraine’s defeat of the initial Russian campaign may therefore set conditions for a devastating protraction of the conflict and a dangerous new period testing the resolve of Ukraine and the West.”
Examples of this more aggressive strategy has already been seen in Mariupol, where Russian forces have begun shelling the city from the sea, a senior Pentagon official said.
Up to seven Russian warships have been seen in the Sea of Azov, The Washington Post reported.
Key Russian ally ‘likely’ to join war
One of Russia’s key allies – Belarus – could “soon” join the invasion of Ukraine, in claims made by US and NATO officials.
It’s believed Belarus has already begun “preparing the environment to justify” the offensive.
“(Russian President Vladimir) Putin needs support. Anything would help,” a NATO official told CNN.
While Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko is an established ally of Vladimir Putin, the country has served as a geographical staging ground for Russia’s attack.
Russian forces partially entered Ukraine from Belarus which sits to its north, with
Mr Putin also attempting to offer the country as a potential safehaven for Ukrainian refugees, in a move that was admonished by the Ukrainian and international governments.
Controversially, Mr Lukashenko also accused Western nations, i.e. NATO countries, into pushing Russia into the war. This links back to Mr Putin’s initial justification of the invasion for the purposes of the “demilitarisation” of Ukraine. For reference he also called for the “denazification” of the country too, despite the Ukrainian President being Jewish himself.
“Now there is a lot of talk against the banking sector, gas, oil, SWIFT,” he said.
“It’s worse than war. This is pushing Russia into a Third World War.
“We need to be restrained here so as not to get into trouble. Because nuclear war is the end of everything.”