The Russian leader has today cited aggressive statements by NATO leaders and the severe economic sanctions imposed on his country for his decision.
Speaking on state television on Sunday, he said: “As you can see, not only do Western countries take unfriendly measures against our country in the economic dimension – illegitimate sanctions that everyone knows about.
“But also the highest-ranking officials of leading NATO countries are allowing themselves to make aggressive statements in relation to our country.
For this reason I order the minister of defence and the chief of general staff to put deterrent forces on special combat duty.
“For this reason I order the minister of defence and the chief of general staff to put deterrent forces on special combat duty.”
Late on Saturday, G7 leaders agreed to ban Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system.
This comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sparked hopes of a diplomatic solution to the crisis by agreeing to talks with the Russians.
This follows intense negotiations over the location of the talks, with Zelensky refusing to travel to Minsk due to Belarus’s close links with the Kremlin, and his office proposing instead Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, Istanbul or Baku.
But his office said on Sunday it would hold talks with Russia at its border with Belarus, following the President’s call with Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko.
“The politicians agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet the Russian one without preconditions at the Ukraine-Belarus border, near the Pripyat River,” Zelensky’s office said.
These developments follow a third night of fighting in Ukraine, with citizens of Kyiv striving to take shelter underground while following the president’s order of curfew until Monday, and heavy fighting in the country’s second-largest city of Kharkiv.