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Russia's President Vladimir Putin has put the country's nuclear forces on high alert amid a wave of Western sanctions in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The invasion has so far seen the EU, the UK, and the U.S. and Canada close their skies to Russian aircraft and impose a series of harsh sanctions targeting Russia's financial industry, up to and including the cutoff of several Russian banks from the SWIFT system.
What's more, the EU has for the first time since its creation decided to send weapons to a country at war, Reuters reported, saying Brussels was going to send some $507 million worth of weaponry to Ukraine.
"Not only do Western countries take unfriendly measures against our country in the economic dimension - I mean the illegal sanctions that everyone knows about very well - but also the top officials of leading NATO countries allow themselves to make aggressive statements with regards to our country," Putin said this weekend.
"We are afraid that Russia is not going to stop in Ukraine," the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borell said, adding that Putin's latest move was clearly a threat of a nuclear attack.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, recommended "Russia to tone down this dangerous rhetoric regarding nuclear weapons."
"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 that prism," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told CNN.
"At every step of this conflict, Putin has manufactured threats to justify more aggressive actions -- he was never under threat from Ukraine or from NATO, which is a defensive alliance that will not fight in Ukraine," an unnamed White House official told the news outlet.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com