World War Three 'has already started' claims Ukrainian minister

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·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
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Watch: Ukrainian defence minister warns World War Three has "already started"

A third world war has "already started" and Europe "shouldn't be afraid" to escalate tensions with Russia further, the Ukrainian defence minister has claimed.

Oleksiy Reznikov said his nation was the "first battlefield" in the conflict, and warned Russian president Vladimir Putin will not stop if Ukraine falls.

He told Sky News: "Don't be afraid to make new escalation with the Russians because absolutely honestly the Third World War was started on 24 February this year.

"It's absolutely honestly real life, don't be afraid.

"We are the first battlefield in this war. If we will fall down the next battlefield will be in the next European countries."

The war in Ukraine has now been going on for 126 days, and Ukrainian authorities have estimated more than 35,000 Russian soldiers have been killed so far.

Read more: Ex-president of Russia warns of World War Three if Nato encroaches on Crimea

Ukrainian defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov has said WW3 has already started. (AP)
Ukrainian defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov has said WW3 has already started. (AP)

Since Putin launched the invasion, Russian troops faced stiffer-than-expected resistance and have since withdrawn from the west of the country and focused efforts in the Donbas region in the south east.

On Saturday, pro-Russian forces claimed control of the strategically important city of Severodonetsk.

Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters work to take away debris at a shopping center burned after a rocket attack in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters work to take away debris at a shopping center burned after a rocket attack in Kremenchuk. (AP)
Click on this image to see all Yahoo News UK's latest content on the Ukraine crisis
Click on this image to see all Yahoo News UK's latest content on the Ukraine crisis

It comes after the former president of Russia warned on Tuesday that World War Three could break out if any Nato member encroaches on the disputed land of Crimea.

Dmitry Medvedev, who served as president between 2008 and 2012 told reporters that any advancement on the peninsular in the south of Ukraine could amount to a declaration of war on Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to the media after the summit of Caspian Sea littoral states in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Thursday, June 30, 2022. (Dmitry Azarov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. (AP)

In 2014, Russia seized Ukraine's southern peninsula of Crimea, an area of strategic importance in an invasion which marked what one Western intelligence official described as the "creeping militarisation" of the Black Sea.

While Nato and the international community deemed the annexation illegal, they failed to stop it and Moscow has since established two federal "subjects" in the area — the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol.

Speaking as the Nato summit in Madrid drew to a close on Thursday, Boris Johnson promised a further £55 billion in defence spending over the rest of the decade in response to the threat posed by Russia.

The PM committed Britain to increasing defence spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of the decade and encouraged Nato allies to boost their own military budgets.

Watch: Soldiers hungry to learn from British Army as they sharpen skills on Salisbury plain

The UK has promised an extra £1 billion of military aid for Ukraine, and Johnson said Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s country had to be supported to take back occupied territory.

“I think if Ukraine were to be crushed or forced into a bad peace, the consequences for freedom around the world would be appalling,” he said.

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