RUSSIAN PRESIDENT PRESS SERVICE/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a ‘special military operation’ in the Donbass, Moscow, Russian Federation – 24 Feb 2022
The White House said Vladimir Putin is following a pattern of “manufacturing threats” by ordering Russian deterrence forces, which include its nuclear weapons, to a heightened state of readiness.
As the US and its allies continue to condemn Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and impose severe economic sanctions on Russia, country’s leader cited “aggressive” statements by NATO in directing nuclear forces on high alert Sunday, according to the Associated Press.
“Top officials in leading NATO countries have allowed themselves to make aggressive comments about our country, therefore I hereby order the Minister of Defense and the chief of the General Staff to place the Russian Army Deterrence Force on combat alert,” Putin told defense officials during an address on state TV, CNN reported.
US official told The New York Times that America’s alert level for its nuclear forces has not changed, indicating a deliberate decision to avoid further escalation.
During a Sunday appearance on This WeekWhite House Press Secretary Jen Psaki addressed Putin’s move.
“This is really a pattern that we’ve seen from President Putin through the course of this conflict, which is manufacturing threats that don’t exist in order to justify further aggression. And the global community and the American people should look at it through it that prism. We’ve seen him do this time and time again,” Psaki told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki
“At no point has Russia been under threat from NATO, Russia has been under threat from Ukraine, this is all a pattern from President Putin,” Psaki continued. “We have the ability to defend ourselves, but we also need to call out what we’re seeing here from President Putin.”
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said Putin’s decision was a “totally unacceptable” escalation in the war with Ukraine.
“Putin has tried every possible means to actually put fear in the world in terms of his action, and it just means that we have to ramp up our efforts here at the United Nations and elsewhere to hold him accountable,” Thomas-Greenfield told CBS News’ Margaret Brennan during an interview on Face the Nation on Sunday. “Certainly nothing is off the table with this guy. He’s willing to use whatever tools he can to intimidate Ukrainians and the world.”
Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues after the country invaded on Thursday, with forces moving from the north, south and east.
Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty
Details of the attack and the fighting change by the day, but this is the first major land conflict in Europe in the decades — and hundreds have already been reported dead or wounded, including more than 100 children. Thousands more people have fled or tried to escape Ukraine amid warnings of a possible “refugee crisis.”
“You don’t know where to go, where to run, who you have to call,” Liliya Marynchak, a 45-year-old teacher in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, I told PEOPLE recently of the moment her city was bombed. “This is just panic,” she said.
In addition to the economic sanctions imposed by a global coalition that opposes Putin’s aggression, various countries have also pledged aid or military support to Ukraine, whose president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has pleaded for peace talks while urging his country to resist.
Putin insists Ukraine has historic ties to Russia and he is acting in the interest of so-called “peacekeeping.”
“The prayers of the entire world are with the people of Ukraine,” President Joe Biden said as the invasion began in force last week.