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Europe defenceless and unprepared for nuclear war, warns Putin

In Europe
June 08, 2024

Vladimir Putin has warned that Europe is “defenceless” and unprepared for a nuclear conflict with Russia.

In a typically bellicose speech at the St Petersburg Economic Forum this week, Putin also predicted that Nato would fail to protect Europe in a war with Russia.

“Europe does not have a developed early warning system. In this sense they are more or less defenceless,” he said, sitting on stage alongside Luis Arce, Bolivia’s president, and Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s president.

Putin has previously boasted of Russia’s nuclear arsenal but he intensified his rhetoric this week at the forum, held as Nato allies marked the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings at Normandy.

This included using one of his first interviews with Western media to claim that he had no intention of attacking Nato, although he also said that he was prepared to arm allies of Russia with long-range missiles to strike Europe.

During his four-hour speech and question and answer session on Friday at the end of the business-orientated forum, the moderator asked Putin if he should hold a “nuclear pistol” to the West.

A Russian RS-24 Yars missile launcher during the Victory Day parade at Red Square in Moscow, on May 9

A Russian RS-24 Yars missile launcher during the Victory Day parade at Red Square in Moscow, on May 9 – Getty Images Europe

“The use is possible in an exceptional case, in the event of a threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. I don’t think that such a case has come. There is no such need,” replied Putin.

The Russian president has unnerved commentators in the West by testing missiles that can be armed with a nuclear warhead. Russian media has also talked up the possibility of the Kremlin test-firing its first nuclear weapon since 1990, a threat that Putin repeated on Friday.

“If necessary, we will conduct tests. So far, there is no need for this,” he said.

With his forces on the offensive in Ukraine, Western politicians squabbling over military aid for Kyiv and the successful purge of Russia’s Ministry of Defence, blamed for the botched initial invasion of Ukraine, Putin has appeared more relaxed and confident in the past month.

And Russians milling around outside the main forum hall said that Putin was a hero who had saved Russia. Many were queuing to buy T-shirts branded with his quotes justifying his war in Ukraine.

Although economists have warned that Russian GDP growth is premised mainly on military spending, Putin boasted that Western sanctions had failed to dent Russia’s economy and he was strengthening Russia’s ties with countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Russian soldiers training to use nuclear weapons, in the country's southern military district, in May

Russian soldiers training to use nuclear weapons, in the country’s southern military district, in May – Russian Defence Ministry/REUTERS

“Positive macroeconomic trends are gaining momentum,” he said. “This will allow our country to keep its place among the leading economies of the world.”

As well as pushing his nuclear threat, Putin used the forum to promote his two daughters who gave speeches on Thursday and Friday. Maria Vorontsova, 39, is a genetics researcher; Katerina Tikhonova, 37, is a tech investor.

Putin has never publicly acknowledged the two women as his daughters and this was the first time they had both attended the business forum.

Russia's missile forces holding a tactical nuclear weapons drill in the southern military district of the country

Russia’s missile forces holding a tactical nuclear weapons drill in the southern military district of the country – AFP

Analysts said that the appearance of Putin’s two daughters did not mean that they were being groomed for power but did fit a pattern of promotion for the children of Kremlin insiders.

Ksenia Shoigu, daughter of Putin’s loyal former defence minister, also took part in panel events at the forum and last month Putin promoted Dmitry Patrushev, son of former Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev, to become a deputy prime minister.

“The rise of the princess, children of representatives of the political elite has begun,” said Yevgeny Minchenko, a political scientist who’s worked with the Kremlin.

Follow the latest updates below


12:40 PM BST

That’s all for today

Thank you for following our live coverage. The key developments were:

  • Vladimir Putin has said Europe is “defenceless” against nukes and that his country has “many more” than the continent.

  • The Ukrainian Ground Forces reported that soldiers from the 47th Mechanised Brigade are holding back at least three Russian combat brigades on the Pokrovsk front.

  • The Ukrainian Ground Forces reported that soldiers from the 47th Mechanised Brigade are holding back at least three Russian combat brigades on the Pokrovsk front.

  • Lord Cameron was the victim of a hoax video call and messages from someone claiming to be the former president of Ukraine, it has emerged.

  • Ukrainian air defence and mobile drone hunters groups shot down nine out of 13 Russian drones over four regions of the country, the air force said on Saturday.


11:56 AM BST

Ukrainian drones spotted over North Ossetia


11:43 AM BST

Russia says not cutting off dialogue on nuclear arsenal

Russia will keep dialogue lines open with nuclear powers, but will respond accordingly if the United States deploys more strategic nuclear weapons, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said.

Her comments to state news agency RIA followed a statement from Russian president Vladimir Putin on Friday that the country could make adjustments to its nuclear doctrine.

That prompted a speech by a White House aide who said that the United States may have to deploy more strategic nuclear weapons in coming years to deter growing threats from Russia, China and other adversaries.

“We did not stop any dialogue with anyone. We did not cut ties. We did not, by the way, cut energy ties. We did not cut off dialogue platforms,” Ms Zakharova said.

“We have always declared that even in the most difficult situations there is room for dialogue … Therefore, there is no sense in calling us to dialogue, we have never refused it.”

Pranay Vaddi, the top US National Security Council arms control official, made his comments in a speech on “a more competitive approach” to arms control.


11:21 AM BST

One Ukrainian brigade holds back three Russian brigades on Pokrovsk front

The Ukrainian Ground Forces have reported that soldiers from the 47th Mechanised Brigade are holding back at least three Russian combat brigades on the Pokrovsk front.

“Here, the enemy is trying to advance into the depths of our territory. Soldiers of the 47th Mechanised Brigade are holding back at least three Russian combat brigades,” the Ukrainian Ground Forces said.

“With huge reserves of manpower, the Russians quickly replenish their huge losses and throw [new soldiers] into battle again and again. The fighting does not cease for a moment.”


10:52 AM BST

Pictured: Aftermath of Lugansk attack

Rescuers work at the site of a missile attack in Lugansk, Russian-controlled Ukraine

Rescuers work at the site of a missile attack in Lugansk, Russian-controlled Ukraine – STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images

A Ukrainian missile strike on the Russian-controlled city of Lugansk on June 7, 2024 ripped through a block of flats, killing four and injuring over 40, Russia-appointed officials said

A Ukrainian missile strike on the Russian-controlled city of Lugansk on June 7 ripped through a block of flats, killing four and injuring over 40, Russia-appointed officials said – STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images


10:35 AM BST

Russia jails French citizen detained on charges of collecting military data

A court in Moscow has ordered a French citizen accused of collecting information on military issues in Russia be held in jail pending investigation and trial.

Laurent Vinatier was arrested in the Russian capital on Thursday as tensions have flared between Moscow and Paris following French president Emmanuel Macron’s statements about the possibility of deploying the country’s troops in Ukraine.

The authorities accused Mr Vinatier of failing to register as a “foreign agent” while collecting information about Russia’s “military and military-technical activities,” which could be used to the detriment of the country’s security.

They did not provide details of the accusations beyond alleging that Mr Vinatier repeatedly travelled to Russia to collect this information. Under Russian law, it is a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in prison.

The judge ordered Mr Vinatier to be remanded in pre-trial detention until Aug. 5.

Vinatier is an adviser with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, a Geneva-based non governmental organisation, which said it was doing “everything possible to assist our colleague Lauren.”

The charges against Mr Vinatier stem from a recently adopted law that requires anyone who collects information on military issues to register with authorities as a foreign agent.

Human rights activists have criticised the law and other legislation adopted lately as part of a multi-pronged Kremlin crackdown on independent media and political activists intended to stifle criticism of its actions in Ukraine.


10:17 AM BST

Russia destroys three Ukrainian drones over North Ossetia, local head says

Russian air defence units destroyed three Ukrainian drones on Saturday in Russia’s town of Mozdok in the Republic of North Ossetia–Alania, regional head Sergey Meniaylo said.

It was the first drone attack on the region, Russian news agencies reported.

Mr Meniaylo, writing on the Telegram messaging app, said that the attack had caused “minor damage and fires”, and that no one was injured.

The drone was aimed to attack a military airfield, he added.


10:00 AM BST

Listen: Russia opens new front in war on West


09:45 AM BST

Lord Cameron victim of hoax call from ‘former Ukrainian president’

By Nick Gutteridge, chief political correspondent

Lord Cameron has been the victim of a hoax video call and messages from someone claiming to be the former president of Ukraine, it has emerged.

The Government has made public what happened to stave off any attempts to manipulate video footage of the Foreign Secretary from the communications.

A statement from the Foreign Office said a “number of text messages were exchanged followed by a brief video call between the Foreign Secretary and someone purporting to be Petro Poroshenko, former president of Ukraine”.

Mr Poroshenko served as Ukrainian president between 2014 and 2019, and has remained a prominent figure in the country since leaving office.

Lord Cameron is said to have become suspicious and terminated the call when the hoaxer asked for the contact details of fellow members of the Government.

It is understood that the call took place in the last few days. The Telegraph understands that he was also keen to publicise the hoax to warn other of the risk.

Read more


09:42 AM BST

Ukrainian men abroad can now register for military service at foreign consulates

Ukrainian conscripts and reservists living abroad for more than three months can now register for military service at foreign consulates, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry announced on June 7.

Previously, military conscripts living abroad for more than three months needed to visit a military registration office inside Ukrainian territory.

Ukraine has made steps to update the legal framework around conscription to ramp up mobilization over the past year, with Volodymyr Zelensky signing a new law on mobilization on April 16.


09:39 AM BST

Ukraine air defence downs 9 out of 13 Russian drones over four regions

Ukrainian air defence and mobile drone hunters groups shot down nine out of 13 Russian drones over four regions of the country, the air force said on Saturday.

The Iranian-made Shahed drones were downed over the central Poltava region, southeastern Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk regions, and the Kharkiv region in the northeast, the statement said. One X-59 Russian missile launched from Russia’s Kursk region was also downed.

Serhiy Lysak, Dnipropetrovsk regional governor, said the overnight drone attack damaged commercial and residential buildings and also a power line. Details of the damage in other regions were not immediately clear.

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