(CN) — In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden placed all the blame for the war in Ukraine on Russian President Vladimir Putin and accused the Kremlin leader of “making irresponsible nuclear threats.”
Biden's condemnation came only hours after Putin seriously escalated the war in Ukraine by ordering a partial mobilization of up to some 300,000 reservists for the Ukraine war and said Russia would defend itself against Western attacks.
In a televised speech on Wednesday, Putin warned Western leaders that Russia was prepared to use “all means” to defend its territory.
“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all available means to protect Russia and our people – this is not a bluff,” Putin said. “I shall stress – by all means available to us. Those trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the tables can turn on them.”
Putin's statement was seen as threatening the use of nuclear weapons in the event that territories Russia is moving to annex in Ukraine are attacked by NATO-backed Ukrainian forces.
On Tuesday, Russia-affiliated authorities in four Ukrainian regions mostly under the control of Russian troops announced they will hold referendums asking to be made Russian territory.
The process of annexation could happen within weeks and once Moscow claims them to be Russian territory then any attacks on them could be deemed attacks on Russia itself. Western leaders and Kyiv called the referendums a sham and illegal.
“A nuclear war cannot be won, and must never be fought,” Biden said Wednesday as he blasted Putin for “making irresponsible nuclear threats.”
Biden accused Putin of violating the most fundamental principles of the U.N. charter meant to ensure peace and stop countries from attacking each other without reason.
“If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences, then we put at risk everything this very institution stands for, everything,” Biden said. He said a country “cannot seize a nation’s territory by force.”
Before launching the invasion, Putin warned that Russia's national security was threatened by NATO's interest in expanding into Ukraine and by the Western alliance's training and arming of Kyiv's forces.
Putin's warnings over the threat posed by NATO expansion toward Russia's borders go back to 2007 when he made a speech in Munich denouncing plans to invite Ukraine and Georgia, two former Soviet republics, into NATO. But the Kremlin's concerns were disregarded and in 2008 former U.S. President George W. Bush announced both countries would be welcomed into the alliance.
Biden blamed Putin for sparking a “brutal, needless war.”
“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people,” Biden said. “Wherever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe… That should make your blood run cold.”
Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.
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