Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president, has said that any weapons in Moscow's arsenal, including strategic nuclear weapons, could be used to defend territories incorporated into Russia from Ukraine.
Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, also said on Thursday (Sep 21) that referendums being organised by Russian-installed and separatist authorities in large swathes of occupied Ukrainian territory will take place, and that "there is no going back":
"The Donbas [Donetsk and Luhansk] republics and other territories will be accepted into Russia," he said in a Telegram post, referring to breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine's industrial heartland.
His comments came after President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday that Moscow would use "all available means" to protect Russia's "territorial integrity" as he moved to mobilise 300,000 reserve forces to fight in Ukraine. The thinly veiled nuclear threat drew immediate condemnation from an array of Western leaders.
Medvedev, who regularly issues aggressive statements on the West and Ukraine, added that the protection of all the territories would be significantly strengthened by the Russian armed forces.