Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday warned Moscow would mount a quick response if Western powers intervene in its two-month-long invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking to lawmakers in a public setting, Putin said that “if anyone sets out to intervene in the current events from the outside and creates unacceptable threats for us that are strategic in nature, they should know that our response … will be lightning-fast,” according to a translation.
While he did not elaborate, the Russian leader said the military wouldn’t hesitate to use Russia’s most advanced weaponry.
“We have all the tools for this, that no one else can boast of having. We won’t boast about it: we’ll use them, if needed. And I want everyone to know that,” Putin warned. “We have already taken all the decisions on this.”
So far, the United States, European Union, and their allies have opted to issue punishing sanctions against Russia’s economy, targeting Putin and other top government officials and oligarchs. Russia, meanwhile, halted gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria—both NATO and EU members—after they rejected Moscow’s demand for payment in rubles, according to Russian state energy firm Gazprom in a statement.
The move drew condemnation from Polish President Andrzej Duda and Bulgarian officials, who accused Moscow of trying to allegedly blackmail the two nations.
“Europeans can trust that we stand united and in full solidarity with the member states impacted in the face of this new challenge. Europeans can count on our full support,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement following the move.
A day prior to Putin’s warning to lawmakers, London and the Kremlin traded threats as UK Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said in an interview Tuesday that it is fine for Ukraine to strike Russian territory.
“In war, Ukraine needs to strike into its opponents’ depth to attack its logistics lines, its fuel supplies, its ammunition depots, and that’s part of it,” Heappey told the Times Radio, adding that such attacks would be viewed by the UK as “completely legitimate.”
Within Ukraine, Kyiv’s government reported on Wednesday that Russian troops had made gains in several villages there. Russia reported a number of blasts on its side of the border, and a blaze at an arms depot.
Ukraine’s prosecutor-general said Russian forces had used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a pro-Ukraine rally in the southern city of Kherson, the first big urban center seized by Moscow after the Feb. 24 invasion.
And despite the collapse in ties between Russia and the West, Moscow and Washington carried out a prisoner swap. The United States freed Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, jailed on drug trafficking charges. Russia released former U.S. marine Trevor Reed, accused of fighting with Moscow police.
Reuters contributed to this report.