Borrell: Putin not bluffing about nuclear weapons

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The EU must take Vladimir Putin’s threats he could use nuclear weapons in the conflict in Ukraine seriously, the bloc’s foreign policy chief has said.

Josep Borrell told the BBC’s Lyse Doucet that the war had reached a “dangerous moment”.

His remarks come as Russia begins a partial mobilisation and moves to annex four regions of Ukraine.

Mr Putin has faced setbacks on the battlefield, with his forces pushed back by a Ukrainian counter-offensive.

“Certainly it’s a dangerous moment because the Russian army has been pushed into a corner, and Putin’s reaction – threatening using nuclear arms – it’s very bad,” Mr Borrell said.

In a rare address to the nation earlier this week, Mr Putin said his country had “various weapons of destruction” and would “use all the means available to us”, adding: “I’m not bluffing”.

“When people say it is not a bluff, you have to take them seriously,” Mr Borrell said.

In the same speech President Putin announced the call-up of 300,000 Russians who have done compulsory military service, sparking protests and reports of people fleeing the country to avoid being sent to the front line.

Mr Borrell was willing to say in public what many express in private – that Europe and its allies were struggling to control the narrative in this war as Russia spins the view that European sanctions against Russia were to blame for this suffering.

Mr Borrell dismissed concerns that the EU’s arms supplies were running low, and said it must continue providing military support to Ukraine, as well as applying economic sanctions against President Putin and his allies and conducting diplomatic activity.

He admitted that the rising cost of energy prices caused by the conflict was a matter of concern.

“People in my country tell me the price of the gas means we cannot continue working, we cannot continue making my business run,” the Spanish politician said, adding he had heard similar concerns from leaders from Africa, South America and Southeast Asia.

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