Putin gave his explicit support to referendums that will be held in coming days in swathes of Ukraine controlled by Russian troops — the first step to formal annexation of a chunk of Ukraine the size of Hungary. The West and Ukraine have condemned Russia’s referendum plan as an illegal sham and vowed never to accept its results. French President Emmanuel Macron said the plans were “a parody.” But by formally annexing Ukrainian territories, Putin is giving himself the potential pretext to use nuclear weapons from Russia’s vast arsenal, which has more warheads than even the United States. Russia’s nuclear doctrine allows the use of such weapons if weapons of mass destruction are used against it or if the Russian state faces an existential threat from conventional weapons. For more on Putin’s expanded war effort and latest nuclear threat, FRANCE 24 is joined by Peter Zalmayev, Director of the Eurasia Democracy Initiative.
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