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Vladimir Putin has warned Russia will carry out “lightning fast” counterstrikes on any nations interfering with his invasion of Ukraine in his latest nuclear threat to the West.
The Russian leader made the threat in an address to the Council of Legislators in St Petersburg.
Speaking to lawmakers, he warned: “If someone intends to interfere in what is going on from the outside they must know that constitutes an unacceptable strategic threat to Russia.
“They must know that our response to counterstrikes will be lightning fast. Fast.
“We have all the weapons we need for this. No one else can brag about these weapons, and we won’t brag about them. But we will use them.”
The threat came amid claims Russian troops “don’t like to fight in the rain” and this is slowing his attempts to seize more territory in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, Western officials said on Wednesday.
They stressed the Russian president’s forces were making “minor gains” as they seek to advance.
“But when they come up against genuine military objectives, they are finding it difficult to overcome the staunch Ukrainian resistance and they are suffering losses,” said one official.
“It’s not helped by the weather conditions at the moment in the Donbas with heavy rain. Russians don’t like to fight in the rain and that is slowing progress.
“What we are seeing... They are not advancing in heavy rain.”
Mr Putin is thought to be trying to grab some form of victory in the Donbas before May 9.
The day is a key date in the Russian military calendar as it marks the Nazis’ surrender in the Second World War and an annual parade is held through Moscow’s Red Square.
However, defence experts say Mr Putin’s expected rush to get a victory risks sending thousands more Russian troops to their death.
Earlier on Wednesday, British MPs were wearing sanctions as a “badge of honour” after Moscow banned nearly 300 from entering Russia in retaliatory action over the UK’s response to the invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian foreign ministry said it was taking action against 287 members of the House of Commons in response to sanctions against Russian politicians, though its list contained numerous former MPs.
A statement accused the Conservative and Labour members of “whipping up of Russophobic hysteria”.
Russian energy giant Gazprom said it was halting supplies to the two eastern European countries after they refused to pay for the shipments in roubles.
Polish gas company PGNiG confirmed on Wednesday morning that Gazprom has already turned off the taps, adding that company clients are still getting the fuel in line with their needs. It was unclear whether supplies to Bulgaria had been stopped.
European gas prices rose by 20 per cent on Wednesday morning while the Euro fell to a five-year low against the dollar as markets reacted to the news.