The US has warned the Kremlin of the devastating consequences Russia would face should nuclear weapons be used in Ukraine, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday.
“If Russia crosses this line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia,” Sullivan said NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The United States will respond decisively. In private channels, we have spelled out in greater detail exactly what that would mean.”
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he does not believe Putin was bluffing when he said last week that he would be justified in using any force necessary – implying tactical nuclear weapons are not off the table.
“He wants to scare the whole world,” Zelenskyy said. “I think the world is deterring it and containing this threat. We need to keep putting pressure on him.”
Sullivan also said Putin must be held accountable for the war crimes and atrocities Russian troops have committed in Ukraine, but acknowledged diplomacy will ultimately be required to end the conflict. That almost certainly won’t happen until Putin’s ready to negotiate.
“One man chose this war,” Sullivan said. “One man is directing this war. One man is responsible for this war. That man is Vladimir Putin.”
A DRAFT AND MASS GRAVES: Last week’s key events in Ukraine’s war with Russia
►Two US military veterans who disappeared more than three months ago while fighting with Ukrainian forces are back in Alabama after a prisoner exchange. Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh had disappeared on June 9.
►Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic on Sunday played down an agreement signed with Russia, saying it was “technical” and not related to security issues. Serbia, seeking EU membership, has not joined the bloc’s sanctions against Russia.
ANTI-WAR PROTESTS IN RUSSIA:Fears for the drafted as ‘cannon fodder’ and a brutal response by the police
About 93% of those casting their ballots on the first day of the referendum on the Zaporizhzhia region joining the Russian Federation were in favor, according to a poll released Sunday by a Russian firm.
The Crimean Republican Institute for Political and Sociological Research said it surveyed 500 residents of the Russian-occupied region. Ukrainian and US officials have dismissed the voting for “sham referendums,” which began Friday.
Zelenskyy said Sunday that Russia is pushing ahead with referendums in parts of Ukraine it controls because President Vladimir Putin knows he is losing the war and must justify continuing to fight it. Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Zelenskyy said Putin plans on annexing the territories so he can justify continuing the invasion by claiming he is actually defending Russian territory.
Zelenskyy said people who fail to support annexation could face retribution – such as seeing their electricity cut off. The Russians “won’t give them an opportunity to live a normal human life,” he said.
A monthlong Ukraine counteroffensive has driven Russia back from thousands of miles of Ukrainian territory and compelled Putin to approve a “partial” military mobilization aimed at adding 300,000 soldiers to his battered military. Zelenskyy sees that as an acknowledgment that “their army is not able to fight with Ukraine anymore.”
“Look, he knows,” Zelenskyy said. “He feels it, and his military leadership reports to him. He knows that he’s losing the war. In the battlefield, Ukraine has seized the initiative. He cannot explain to his society why.”
EU nations have remained remarkably unified in their opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine despite the huge toll they’re paying in sky-high energy prices. Now, another issue related to the war threatens to test their resolve.
As thousands of Russians of fighting age flee the country to escape a mobilization of civilians that aims to boost troops by 300,000, EU members are debating whether to grant them asylum.
Germany and France have expressed an interest in providing refuge, and a group of more than 40 French senators said, “Closing our frontiers would fit neither with our values nor our interests.”
But that’s not a unanimous stance among the bloc’s 27 members. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the three Baltic countries that were once a part of the Soviet Union and share a border with Russia, have voiced opposition to opening their doors to Russian refugees.
“Russians should stay and fight. Against Putin,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis tweeted.
Finland also said it intends to “significantly restrict” entry to Russians entering the EU through its border with Russia. A Finnish opposition leader, Petteri Orpo, said fleeing Russian military reservists were an “obvious” security risk and “we must put our national security first.”