Putin's mouthpiece Lavrov says all territory annexed by Russia is 'under full protection'

The Russian Foreign Minister gave his address after President Putin said he is “not bluffing” about “weapons of destruction”. Mr Lavrov said the people in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine were “suffering from the abuses of the neo-Nazi regime”.

The Russian Foreign Minister addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York where he was asked if Russia would have grounds to use nuclear weapons to defend annexed regions of Ukraine.

Mr Lavrov has said all Russian territory, which includes territory “further enshrined” in Russia’s constitution in the future is “under the full protection of the state”. 

The Russian Foreign Minister stated that: “All of the laws, doctrines, concepts and strategies of the Russian Federation apply to all of its territory,” while referring specifically to Russia’s doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons.

The Foreign Minister’s comments come at a time there are fears Russia may use nuclear weapons during the Ukraine invasion. 

This week, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia owned “various weapons of destruction” and would “use all the means available to us”, before adding: “I’m not bluffing.”

An ally of President Putin, the former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, warned that any weapons, including nuclear weapons, could be used to defend Russia. 

On Thursday, Mr Medvedev said that Ukraine regions currently holding referendums would be “accepted into Russia.”

The former Russian president’s protection of all territories would be strengthened by the Russian armed forced. 

He added:  “Russia has announced that not only mobilisation capabilities but also any Russian weapons, including strategic nuclear weapons and weapons based on new principles, could be used for such protection.”

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Russia is holding annexation votes in Ukraine regions currently under military occupation to vote if these regions should become Russian.

The referendums are taking place in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

Ukrainian officials have said those in the occupied land are not allowed to leave until the vote is over and Ukrainians were being threatened with dismissal by employers if they did not participate. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has condemned the vote as a “crime”.

He said: “These are not just crimes against international law and Ukrainian law, these are crimes against specific people, against a nation.”

The Ukrainian president also said to those in occupied territory to try and avoid being drafted into the Russian military. 

“Hide from Russian mobilisation in any way you can. Avoid draft orders. Try to move to the territory of free Ukraine,” President Zelensky said.

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Russia’s threat of nuclear weapons has been condemned by Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who said Mr Lavrov and Putin’s comments were “irresponsible” and “absolutely unacceptable”. 

The Ukraine Foreign Minister wrote on Twitter: “Ukraine won’t give in. We call on all nuclear powers to speak out now and make it clear to Russia that such rhetorics put the world at risk and will not be tolerated. “

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said Putin’s threats should be taken seriously. 

He said: “Certainly it’s a dangerous moment because the Russian army has been pushed into a corner, and Putin’s reaction – threatening using nuclear arms – it’s very bad,”

The policy chief added: “When people say it is not a bluff, you have to take them seriously.” 

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