The Kremlin has accused the European Union of “acting in a hostile fashion towards us” over arms supplies to Ukraine.
Russia’s government warned that supplying weapons to Ukraine is “dangerous and destabilising” as Russia continues to advance on the country.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov declined to elaborate on Vladimir Putin’s decision on a “special regime” for nuclear forces or the number of casualties the Russian forces has suffered.
Putin has ordered that Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces be put on high alert, saying aggressive statements by NATO leaders and economic sanctions against Moscow were behind the decision.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace described his comments as “a big attempt to distract away from his troubles in Ukraine” by reminding the world Russia has nuclear capability.
The West has stepped up arms supplies to Ukraine to help its defence against a Russian invasion that Moscow calls a “special military operation” aimed at protecting civilians.
Key developments in the Ukraine crisis:
• Putin orders nuclear deterrent forces to be put on high alert
• Zelenskyy: Ukraine and Russia to hold talks at Belarus border
• Ukraine claims control of key city Kharkiv after fierce clashes
• Foreign secretary warns conflict could last ‘years’
• BP to offload its stake in state-owned Russian oil giant Rosneft
The Kremlin also acknowledged on Monday that Russia’s economic reality had changed – but saw no reason to doubt
the effectiveness and reliability of the central bank, which hiked interest rates to 20% as it sought to shield the economy from unprecedented Western sanctions.
Moscow will retaliate to sanctions
Putin is due to meet with several officials during the day, including the finance minister and central bank governor, Mr Peskov said.
He added that Russia had a plan to react to sanctions and was now carrying it out.
He said Moscow will also retaliate against Western sanctions that target Russia’s aviation industry.
“The guiding principle will be reciprocity, and our own interests will be at the forefront of that,” he told reporters on a conference call.
Ukraine-Russia talks begin in Belarus
Meanwhile, Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak has said talks with Russia in Belarus have begun, according to Reuters.
The meeting will focus on achieving an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian forces, the Ukrainian presidency said in a statement earlier.
The delegation, which arrived in the Gomel region by helicopter, also includes Ukrainian defence minister Oleksii Reznikov.