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Russia could use nuclear arsenal if there is existential threat to country, says Putin aide

US President Biden begins a Europe trip today to ‘lead’ the West’s future response to the war.

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New Delhi: Russia would not hesitate to use its nuclear arsenal if there was an “existential threat” to the country, a Vladimir Putin spokesman has said.

Putin has previously hinted at using Russia’s nuclear weapons by warning those who “create threats for his country” that the reprisal would be such “as you have never seen in your entire history”.

In an interview to CNN, chief spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons and said the “special military operation” in Ukraine was “going on strictly in accordance with the plans and the purposes that were established beforehand”.

Peskov also claimed that Russia had attacked only military targets in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden began a trip to Europe on Wednesday to rally western forces behind another set of sanctions against Russia and to get first-hand knowledge of the refugee crisis when he visits Poland in the last leg.

His first stop will be Brussels, Belgium to meet leaders of NATO, the European Union and the G7 to discuss further punishment for Russia and aid for Ukraine.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky had publicly challenged Biden last week to take responsibility and bring an end to the fighting.

He spoke directly to Biden in his televised address: “Being the leader of the world means being the leader of peace.”

The West’s response to Zelensky’s demands for a no-fly zone and Soviet-era jets has so far been muted because nobody wants to be directly drawn into war with Russia.

Western sanctions, however, have not deterred Putin who continued to bombard Ukraine.

CNN reported that strikes on the coastal city of Mariupol were now coming from the Sea of Azov. In addition to that, the Russians have stationed 21 ships in the Black Sea, a US defence official told CNN.

Meanwhile, Moscow has amped up its crackdown of dissent at home. After Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny was sentenced to nine years for embezzlement, Hugh Williamson — Europe and central Asia director at Human Rights Watch – said: “This verdict is apparently intended not only to silence Navalny but to serve as a warning to Russian civil society and anyone who dares to stand up to the Kremlin’s policies.”

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