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Putin places Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert

As Ukrainian and Russian delegations meet at Belarusian border for first direct talks


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President Vladimir Putin of Russia has placed the country’s nuclear deterrent forces on high alert.

The Russian military confirmed the development, saying it is in line with President Putin’s order.

According to the Associated Press, the Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin that command posts of all of Russia’s nuclear forces have been boosted with additional personnel.

The Defense Ministry said that the high alert status applies to all components of Russian nuclear forces.

These include the Strategic Missile Forces that oversee land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Northern and Pacific Fleets that have submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the long-range aviation that has a fleet of nuclear-capable strategic bombers.

Putin ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be put on high alert Sunday, citing Western sanctions and “aggressive statements” by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) powers.

It is not immediately clear what specific steps the measure implies, but it has raised fears that the war in Ukraine could lead to a bigger and even more dangerous confrontation.

In the meantime, Ukrainian and Russian delegations are meeting at the Belarusian border for their first direct talks since Russia’s invasion began on Thursday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said it would demand an immediate cease-fire.

As the side met, the U.S. announced new sanctions against the Russian Central Bank, looking to limit the financial options for President Vladimir Putin, whose economy has been crippled by global sanctions.

Russia’s conventional military assault on Ukraine entered its fourth day with fighting in the streets of the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and troops moving closer to the capital Kyiv.

The explosions and gunfire around Kyiv, besieged by the Russian forces, appeared to subside overnight.

The Russian military offered to allow residents to leave via a safe corridor while it has beefed up for an onslaught on the capital.

Zelenskyy said in a video message Monday that “every crime, every shelling by the occupiers bring our partners and us even closer.”

In Moscow, Russia’s Central Bank sharply raised its key borrowing rate from 9.5% to 20% in a desperate attempt to shore up the plummeting ruble and prevent the run of banks amid crippling Western sanctions over the Russian war in Ukraine.

The Central Bank also ordered a slew of measures to help the banks cope with the crisis by infusing more cash into the system and easing restrictions for banking operations.

At the same time, it temporarily barred non-residents from selling the government obligations to help ease the pressure on ruble from panicky foreign investors eager to cash out.

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