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Putin’s nuclear threat over Ukraine ‘deplorable’, says UK foreign minister

Vladimir Putin’s threatened use of nuclear weapons over Ukraine has been condemned as “irresponsible and deplorable” by a UK foreign minister.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon levelled his criticism in Parliament after the Russian leader warned the West against deeper involvement in the conflict, saying that such a move risked triggering a global war that would see “the destruction of our civilisation”.

Mr Putin’s comments were made in a state-of-the-nation address following the second anniversary of the invasion by Kremlin forces and ahead of next month’s election that he is all but certain to win.

Responding at Westminster, Lord Ahmad told peers: “Nothing surprises us or shocks us in terms of what Mr Putin articulates.

“It is not the first time he has articulated such comments.

“It is irresponsible, it is wrong and the use or the threatened use of such weapons is frankly quite deplorable.

“Whether he is using it with intent or as shock tactic I can’t speculate on that.

“But what I can say, and I am sure I speak for everyone in the House, is that the last thing anyone wants to hear right now is the use of threatening to use such weapons.”

He added: “Mr Putin himself could reflect on his own history and that of Russia to see that the only way forward on this is to ensure that he pulls back now, he brings about peace on the continent and stops the war on Ukraine.”

Russia
Russian president Vladimir Putin (Matt Cardy/PA)

In an apparent reference to French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement earlier this week that the deployment of Nato troops to Ukraine should not be “ruled out”, Mr Putin warned it would lead to “tragic” consequences.

Mr Putin said the West should keep in mind that “we also have the weapons that can strike targets on their territory, and what they are now suggesting and scaring the world with, all that raises the real threat of a nuclear conflict that will mean the destruction of our civilisation”.

He also emphasised that Russia’s nuclear forces are at “full readiness”.

Earlier, in the House of Lords, a peer had called on the UK to “push for a negotiated settlement” with Moscow over Ukraine.

Economist and independent crossbencher Lord Skidelsky said: “I am trying to understand the logic of the Government’s position.

“Is it still the Government’s expectation that Ukraine will win a complete victory in the sense of recovering the territories it has lost since 2014?

“If so, can the minister confirm that this remains the Government’s position?

“If not, most experts now do not think that is a feasible endgame, should the Government not couple support for Ukraine with a public push for a negotiated settlement, such as has been advocated by many countries in the world, while they still have leverage on the table, not least to avoid the unnecessary slaughter of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians?”

Responding, Lord Ahmad said: “We want to stop the slaughter of innocent Ukrainian citizens.

“The best way to stop that slaughter is for Mr Putin and Russia to stop the war now.

“There are no two ways about it, we cannot allow it.

“We back Ukraine, Ukraine’s leadership is important, and the United Kingdom stands firmly behind it.”

Lord Skidelsky was last year suspended from the upper chamber for a month after failing to properly declare his links to a think tank funded by two Russian businessman who were subsequently sanctioned.

The peer, who has been critical of the Government’s approach to Ukraine accusing it of pursuing a “war policy”, has previously served as a director of the Russian oil firm Russneft and last June attended a party organised by Russia’s ambassador in London to mark the country’s national holiday.