Australia has slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “unthinkable” threat to deploy nuclear weapons.
Russia’s ominous threat, which marked the biggest escalation of the Ukraine war since the invasion on 24 February, has alarmed and horrified world leaders.
While Mr Putin has repeatedly hinted at Russia’s nuclear arsenal, his threat is regarded as the clearest language yet suggesting he might be prepared to spark a nuclear disaster to win the war.
Speaking in New York, Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the Russian President was engaging in an “illegal and immoral” war.
“It is unthinkable and irresponsible that those threats were made,’’ Senator Wong said.
“Overnight, we saw Mr Putin, making threats to use all means at his disposal.
“His claims of defending Russia’s territorial integrity aren’t true. No sham referendum will make them true.
“Russia alone is responsible for this illegal and immoral war and peace must first lie with Russia withdrawing from Ukrainian territory.”
Mr Putin vowed to use “all available means” to protect Russian territory, after Moscow-held regions of Ukraine announced annexation referendums.
“When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff,’’ he said.
“Those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can also turn in their direction.”
China — a nation with strong ties to the Russian Federation — called for a “ceasefire through dialogue and consultation” following Putin’s address on Ukraine, in which he made a thinly-veiled threat to use nuclear weapons.
“We call on the relevant parties to realise a ceasefire through dialogue and consultation, and find a solution that accommodates the legitimate security concerns of all parties as soon as possible,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular press briefing.
US President Joe Biden, speaking at the United Nations, accused Mr Putin of trying “to erase a sovereign state from the map”.
“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people,” Mr Biden said.
“Wherever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe … That should make your blood run cold.
“If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences, then we put at risk everything this very institution stands for, everything.
He added: “The world should see the outrageous acts for what they are.”
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace immediately responded to Mr Putin’s speech, saying the Russian leader was “breaking his own promises” and claimed military mobilisation was proof his “special military operation” in Ukraine was failing.
“He and his defence minister have sent tens of thousands of their own citizens to their deaths, ill-equipped and badly led,’’ he said.
“No amount of threats and propaganda can hide the fact that Ukraine is winning this war, the international community are united and Russia is becoming a global pariah.”
Last month, Senator Wong walked out on her Russian counterpart during an international meeting in protest over Russia’s slaughter of civilians during its brutal invasion of Ukraine.
Tody the Foreign Minister also noted a verdict in the trial of those charged over the downing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was due later this year.
The tragedy resulted in the deaths of all 298 passengers and crew, including 38 people who called Australia home.
“The verdict in the Dutch prosecution of the four individuals allegedly responsible is due in November,’’ she said.
“That will be a very important step in our collective efforts to hold those who are responsible to account. This will be a difficult but very important milestone for the families and loved ones. In addition, Australia and the Netherlands are committed to the pursuit of accountability through our dispute against Russia.”
— with AFP