London, Feb 28 (PTI) The Russian government on Monday accused UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and others in the west of making “unacceptable” remarks which led to the Kremlin’s announcement that it was putting its nuclear forces on high alert.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Truss’ reference to possible “clashes” between NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation military alliance – and Moscow over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the reason behind its move.
“Statements were made by various representatives at various levels on possible altercations or even collisions and clashes between NATO and Russia,” Peskov told a news briefing, as reported by the Interfax news agency.
“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,” he said.
It is unclear which specific comments the Kremlin is referring to, with Downing Street and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) reiterating the need for de-escalation.
On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused western countries of taking unfriendly measures by imposing “illegitimate sanctions” and making aggressive statements in relation to Russia.
“For this reason I order the minister of defence and the chief of general staff to put deterrent forces on special combat duty,” he said.
The West has attempted to downplay these remarks, with UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace terming it a distraction from what’s going wrong in Ukraine and a reminder to the world that Russia possessed a nuclear deterrent.
“We don’t see or recognise in the sort of phrase or the status he described as anything that is a change to what they have currently as their nuclear posture,” Wallace told the BBC.
“This is predominantly about Putin putting it on the table just to remind people, remind the world, that he has a deterrent,” he said.
“President Putin will know that anything involving a nuclear weapon has an equal or greater response from the West. It [the UK’s nuclear deterrent] does keep us safe and that’s why I would say to parents up and down this country we will not do anything to escalate in that area. We will not do anything to feed any miscalculation. We take it very, very seriously,” he added.
The minister also claimed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was not going to plan, with “significant casualties” and protests against it in Russia. Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned the next 24 hours will be “crucial” in the ongoing Russian attack on the country.
Meanwhile, the UK is preparing to fast-track further restrictive sanctions on the Russian super-rich by bringing forward the tabling of a proposed Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill in the House of Commons from later this year to this week.
It is aimed at tackling the flow of “dirty money” and stopping the laundering of unexplained wealth in the UK property market. The new law will apply retrospectively to property bought by overseas owners up to 20 years ago in England and Wales, and since December 2014 in Scotland.
“There is no place for dirty money in the UK. We are going faster and harder to tear back the façade that those supporting Putin’s campaign of destruction have been hiding behind for so long,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“Those backing Putin have been put on notice: there will be nowhere to hide your ill-gotten gains,” he said.
The new legislation will create a register of overseas entities requiring offshore owners of property in the UK to declare their true identity to ensure criminals are not able to misuse shell companies for the purpose.
Unexplained wealth orders (UWOs) will also be expanded, with UK law enforcement being given more time to review material provided in response to the order, and being protected from incurring substantial legal costs if they bring a reasonable case that is unsuccessful.
UWOs allow UK officials to seize assets without having to prove they were obtained through criminal activity.
Separately, a new “kleptocracy” cell based in the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), announced last week by Boris Johnson in the Commons, will begin to investigate sanctions evasion right away. PTI AK RUP AKJ RUP
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