Truss Accuses 'Desperate' Putin Of 'Sabre-Rattling' Over Nuclear Threat

UK prime minister uses UN speech to say the Russian president is trying to gloss over a “catastrophic” failure in Ukraine.
Liz Truss delivers a speech to members of the United Nations in New York during her visit to the US to attend the 77th UN General Assembly.
Liz Truss delivers a speech to members of the United Nations in New York during her visit to the US to attend the 77th UN General Assembly.
Stefan Rousseau via PA Wire/PA Images

Liz Truss has accused Vladimir Putin of “sabre rattling” after he suggested Russia was prepared to use nuclear weapons as its invasion of Ukraine flounders.

The UK prime minister, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, said the Russian president is desperately trying to justify a “catastrophic failure” in Ukraine.

Her attack on Putin came after the Russian president’s comments in a televised address to the nation that his country would use “all the means at our disposal” to protect itself.

He announced a partial military mobilisation, with 300,000 reservists set to be called up as the Kremlin attempts to regain ground in the face of a counter-attack by Ukraine’s forces.

Late on Wednesday night in New York, Truss praised the “strength of collective purpose” in response to Putin’s invasion so far, but warned that support for Ukraine must not wane.

She said: “In Ukraine, barbarous weapons are being used to kill and maim people. Rape is being used as an instrument of war. Families are being torn apart.

“And this morning we have seen Putin desperately trying to justify his catastrophic failures.

“He is doubling down by sending even more reservists to a terrible fate.

“He is desperately trying to claim the mantle of democracy for a regime without human rights or freedoms.

“And he is making yet more bogus claims and sabre-rattling threats.

“This will not work. The international alliance is strong – Ukraine is strong.”

British diplomats were taking Putin’s nuclear threats seriously, but the thinking was they have already seen him lie and bluff during the war.

The prime minister told fellow world leaders that the UK will spend 3% of GDP on defence by 2030, repeating a promise she made when she campaigned to become Tory leader.

She said: “In the face of rising aggression we have shown we have the power to act and the resolve to see it through. But this must not be a one-off.

“This must be a new era in which we commit to ourselves, our citizens, and this institution that we will do whatever it takes – whatever it takes to deliver for our people and defend our values.”

Truss praised the “brave, dignified” Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska, who is attending the summit in New York.

The prime minister also drew an explicit link between the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis facing the UK and countries across Europe, as she promised not to be “coerced or harmed” by cutting off “toxic power and pipelines” from authoritarian regimes.

She said: “We will ensure we cannot be coerced or harmed by the reckless actions of rogue actors abroad.

“We will transition to a future based on renewable and nuclear energy whilst ensuring that the gas used during that transition is from reliable sources including our own North Sea production.”

It comes as world leaders gather at a United Nations summit in New York to discuss the ongoing Russian assault on Ukraine.

Putin had said “it’s not a bluff” when he vowed that Russia would use its weapons of mass destruction if its territory was threatened.

The Russian leader accused the West of “nuclear blackmail” and claimed “high-ranking representatives of the leading Nato states” had talked about the possibility of using weapons of mass destruction against Russia.

“To those who allow themselves such statements regarding Russia, I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction,” Putin said.

The comments by Putin prompted stern responses from other world leaders, with US president Joe Biden using his speech at the UN General Assembly to condemn the Russian president’s “reckless disregard” for the country’s responsibilities as a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Moscow-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine are set to hold referenda on becoming parts of Russia, which could give the Kremlin the pretext for a wider war because Mr Putin would be able to claim parts of his state were being attacked.

The prime minister, who held talks with the US president on Wednesday, is using her visit to the United Nations to rally support for Ukraine.

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