After Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of four occupied parts of Ukraine, President Joe Biden warned Russia that the U.S. would not be scared off by careless threats.
On Friday, it looked like President Putin made a veiled threat that he would use nuclear weapons to protect those areas.
He said they would be Russian “forever,” but Ukraine promised to free them.
Jens Stoltenberg, the head of NATO, called the Russian move “the most serious escalation since the war began.”
In a speech in Moscow, the Russian leader said that people in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhia in the east and south of Ukraine had voted to be “with their people, their motherland.”
He was talking about the so-called referendums that have been held in the regions in recent days. However, the Ukrainian government and governments in the West have said that the votes were fake.
In most of his speech, Mr. Putin criticised the West.
He made a threat by saying that the US had set a “precedent” when it used nuclear weapons against Japan at the end of World War II.
Last week, Mr. Putin said that his country had “different weapons of destruction” and that it would “use all the tools we have.” He also said, “I’m not bluffing.”
The Kremlin has made it clear that any attack on the areas Russia claims would be seen as an attack on Russian soil and be a sign that the war is getting worse.
Russia doesn’t have full control over any of the four regions, and Mr. Putin didn’t make it clear where the borders are in his speech.
President Biden called out his Russian counterpart’s “reckless words and threats,” but he also said that Mr. Putin “wasn’t going to scare us.”
President Biden said at the White House, “America and its friends are not going to be scared.”
Then he pointed his finger at the camera and spoke directly to the Russian president.
“The United States and our allies in NATO are ready to defend every inch of NATO territory,” he said, referring to the Western security bloc.
“Mr. Putin, don’t get me wrong. I mean every inch.”
Shortly after that, Mr. Biden’s top national security official said there was a chance Moscow would use nuclear weapons, but there didn’t seem to be a threat right away.
Putin raises the stakes in a speech that is full of hate for the West.
What the Russian takeover means for the regions of Ukraine
After Mr. Putin’s speech, Ukraine quickly started a new effort to join NATO.
After a crisis meeting of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Kyiv had been a “de facto” member of the security bloc for a long time and accused Moscow of redrawing borders “using murder, blackmail, mistreatment, and lies.”
Mr. Zelensky promised to free all of Ukraine, including Crimea, the southern peninsula of Ukraine that Russia took over in 2014. He also said that he wouldn’t talk to Mr. Putin any more.
Mr. Stoltenberg of NATO didn’t want to say much about the bid, saying that it was up to the bloc’s 30 members to decide.
Mr. Stoltenberg told reporters that the alliance members “do not and will not” recognise any of the seized territory as being part of Russia. He also accused Mr. Putin of “irresponsible nuclear saber-rattling.”
He said that the annexation was the “turning point” of the war.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission, said that Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea won’t change anything.
“All of the land that Russian invaders took without permission is Ukrainian land and will always be a part of this sovereign country.”
Related: A citizen from Moscow tells aboout Russia
Turkey said that what Russia did broke international law in a “grave” way.
South Korea said it did not recognise the attempted annexations and that Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial security, and independence must be protected.
As Mr. Putin spoke in Moscow, about 750 km (466 miles) to the south, Ukrainian troops surrounded his forces in Lyman, a strategic town in the east of Donetsk.
Ukraine’s military has been trying to hide how quickly its troops are moving into the area. However, a video posted on social media seemed to show Kyiv’s forces in the middle of Yampil, which is only 16 km (9 miles) south-east of Lyman.
And late Friday night, Kyiv’s defence ministry said it had taken the village of Drobysheve, which is 8 km (4 miles) north-west of Lyman.
Also, on Saturday morning, Ukraine said that the Russians had taken the director of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which is in Zaporizhzhia, “in an unknown direction.” Soon after starting its invasion on February 24, Russia took over the plant.
This happened just hours after Ukraine said that a rocket attack on a civilian convoy in the city of Zaporizhzhia killed 30 people.
Russia said that the attack, which killed a lot of people, was done by Ukraine.
On Friday, Russia used its veto power to stop the UN Security Council from passing a resolution that would have said it was wrong to annex the four occupied regions. Moscow’s ambassador, Vasily Nebenzia, said it was a first to try to get a permanent member of the body kicked out.
Even though it was expected that the Kremlin would block the motion, both India and China didn’t vote on it.