Words of mass destruction: Truss vs Putin after Russia issues nuclear threat

28 February 2022, 12:16 | Updated: 28 February 2022, 13:07

Liz Truss's comments were singled out by the Kremlin
Liz Truss's comments were singled out by the Kremlin. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The Kremlin has claimed that Vladimir Putin put his nuclear deterrent forces on high alert because of 'unacceptable' statements made by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a press briefing today: "Statements were made by various representatives at various levels on possible altercations or even collisions and clashes between Nato and Russia.

"We believe that such statements are absolutely unacceptable.

"I would not call the authors of these statements by name, although it was the British foreign minister."

It was not immediately clear what statements the Kremlin was referring to but Ms Truss said on Sunday that faced with the possible end of his regime, Mr Putin could resort to the “most unsavoury means" and warned Russia could use "even worse weapons" in the conflict.

An ally of Foreign Secretary Liz Truss hit back at the Kremlin's claims today, saying: "Nothing Liz has said warrants that sort of escalation. It's clearly designed to distract from the situation on the ground in Ukraine," the ally said.

"The Foreign Secretary has always talked about Nato in the context of it being a defensive alliance.

"Her point is that we stand by Article 5, and that we must do everything we can to help Ukraine short of putting boots on the ground.

"We take it very seriously and want to keep the situation calm."

Peace talks were taking place between Russia and Ukraine on the Belarus border.

Read more: 'Show this to Putin': Horror of the child victims of the Ukraine war

Read more: Putin's nuclear threat is 'rhetoric', says Defence Sec

Asked about Russia’s arsenal of chemical and tactical nuclear weapons, Ms Truss said yesterday: “I fear this conflict could be very, very bloody.

“I urge the Russians not to escalate this conflict but we do need to be prepared for Russia to seek to use even worse weapons. I think it would be hugely devastating. We need to avoid this at all costs.”

Ms Truss also said that if Putin was not stopped in Ukraine it could lead to Nato being dragged into a wider conflict.

"If we don’t stop Putin in Ukraine we are going to see others under threat – the Baltics, Poland, Moldova, and it could end up in a conflict with Nato,” said the foreign secretary.

“We do not want to go there. That is why it is so important we make the sacrifices now.”

Mr Putin was seen in a TV clip meeting with his defence minister and the chief of the general staff, and instructing them to put the nuclear deterrent on a “special regime of combat duty”.

Putin cited “aggressive statements” from Western powers and hard-hitting economic sanctions, including the exclusion of Russian banks from the Swift global payments system, which sparked a run on banks across Russia.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace today took steps to calm the situation, telling LBC: "No, we’re not going to have a nuclear war.

“President Putin is dealing at the moment in rhetoric. He wants to distract from what’s gone wrong in Ukraine. He wants us all to be reminded that he has a nuclear deterrent.

“Britain has a nuclear deterrent. It’s somewhere out there under the sea 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It has kept us safe for decades. It is a deterrent by definition.

“President Putin knows that, and he also knows America and France also have a deterrent.

“This is more about putting it on the table to flex muscles and detract.

“No-one is going to do anything to unnecessarily provoke him or indeed to escalate this beyond trying to deter him from his actions in Ukraine. We know that he gets deterred by might.”

The Russian rouble crashed after the West introduced the crippling sanctions against Putin.

The UK has also cracked down on the so-called "dirty money" of billionaire oligarchs.

The value of Russia's currency was down around 30 per cent against the US dollar at one point, as the country's invasion into Ukraine continues to increase tensions across the world.

The Rouble was trading at a record low of 105.27 per dollar (approx. £79) - down from about 84 per dollar (£63) late on Friday.

In a bid to fight back against the plummeting rouble, Russia's central bank sharply raised its key interest rate from 9.5 per cent to 20 per cent on Monday.

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