Kyiv: Russian President Vladimir Putin threatens the very existence of Ukraine’s statehood as his military faces stiff resistance to incursion into neighboring countries and his economy is increasingly suffocated by sanctions.
In the latest move to keep Moscow out of the world economy, U.S.-based credit card payment giants Visa and Mastercard announced they would suspend operations in Russia, while world leaders vowed to take action against the intensifying shock.
“The current (Ukrainian) authorities must understand that if they continue to do what they are doing, they are putting in question the future of Ukrainian statehood,” Putin said on Saturday.
“And if this happens, they will be fully responsible.”
Since Russia’s invasion 10 days ago, the economic and humanitarian toll of the war has spiralled, sending more than one million people fleeing Ukraine. Officials have reported hundreds of civilians killed.
Kyiv has urged the West to boost military assistance to the besieged country, including warplanes, with President Volodymyr Zelensky pleading for Eastern European neighbours to provide Russian-made planes that his citizens are trained to fly.
Meanwhile, Putin escalated his warnings to NATO, threatening a no-fly zone that would spark wider war, as his forces resumed their offensive on a key Ukrainian city where security concerns hampered a planned withdrawal .
While Zelensky criticized NATO for excluding the no-fly zone, Putin said if such a step was taken, “it would have catastrophic consequences not only for Europe but for the world as a whole”.
“Any movement in this direction will be considered by us as participation in an armed conflict by that country,” Putin said.
He also dismissed rumors that the Kremlin planned to declare martial law in Russia.