Russian President Vladimir Putin put his nuclear forces on increased alert on Sunday in a major escalation of tensions with the West. Russia’s conventional military assault on Ukraine entered its fourth day with fighting in the streets of the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and troops moving closer to the capital.
The United States and European countries said they were upping their deliveries of weapons to Ukraine.
Here are the things to know about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the security crisis in Europe:
RUSSIA PUTS NUCLEAR FORCES ON ALERT
Unearthing long-buried fears from the Cold War, Putin ordered Russian nuclear weapons prepared for increased readiness to launch.
He said NATO had made “aggressive statements” toward Russia and cited the stiff economic sanctions imposed on Russia.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN that Putin’s invocation of Russia’s nuclear arsenal was “dangerous rhetoric.”
The practical meaning of Putin’s order was not immediately clear. Russia and the United States typically have land- and submarine-based nuclear forces on alert and prepared for combat at all times, but nuclear-capable bombers and other aircraft are not.
Russian troops drew closer to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, a city of almost 3 million, and street fighting broke out in Kharkiv. Strategic ports in the south were coming under pressure from attackers.
Ukrainian defenders put up stiff resistance that appeared to slow the invasion. But a U.S. official cautioned that far stronger Russian forces inevitably will learn and adapt their tactics as Russia’s assault goes on.
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