Putin raises nuclear stakes over Ukraine war as Yorkshire unites to condemn conflict and demand harder sanctons against Russia

FOREIGN Secretary Liz Truss has spoken of her fear that Vladimir Putin might unleash Moscow’s arsenal of battlefield nuclear weapons to secure victory in the Ukraine war.

Her warning come hours before the Kremlin tyrant raised the spectre of a nuclear stand-off just days after ordering his military forces to invade Ukraine.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

He was immediately denounced by world leaders as Ukraine’s heroic resistance continued to hold firm, amid the tentative prospect of peace talks, while Britain was urged to act over the mounting refugee crisis.

There were emotional scenes at a peace vigil in Sheffield held in support of Ukrainians. Photo: James Hardisty.

On Monday, over 1,000 faith leaders are delivering an open letter to Boris Johnson urging him to drop new laws that restrict the rights of refugees as the Archbishop of York demands stronger sanctions against Russian oligarchs.

Meanwhile a peace vigil in Sheffield was attended by hundreds of people – and senior Ukrainians praised Bradford City and fans of other football clubs for their shows of solidarity.

Those gathered in Sheffield included Lena Mandrik whose parents are trapped in Kyiv. “It is scary to watch the videos of your home city and see the destroyed streets where you walked before, children hiding in the metro and sleeping on the floor just as in London during the Second World War, and to know that your family, your elderly parents, and your friends with little children are there,” she said.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has spoken of her fears about the escalation of the Ukraine war.

Her sentiment was echoed by the Archbishop of York when he stressed that “Nato is not about to declare war on Russia and Ukraine must be feeling very alone”.

But the Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell, speaking at Tadcaster Church, said: “There are things we can do, such as offering generous humanitarian aid; receiving refugees and supporting countries in the region who will see vast movements of people.”

The Archbishop also demanded the “stiffest possible sanctions on Russia, including a long and long overdue hard look at some of the dubious and dirty Russian money that sloshes around London”.

“These things won’t just hurt Russia and make it far harder for them to sustain their subjugation of Ukraine, they will hurt us as well,” he added. “We need to be prepared to make painful sacrifices ourselves, which will affect our own pocket and our own standards of living.”

There were emotional scenes at a peace vigil in Sheffield held in support of Ukrainians and attended by hundreds of people. Photo: James Hardisty.

Meanwhile the letter by faith leaders urges Ministers to reconsider elements of the Nationality and Borders Bill when it goes before the House of Lords this afternoon, warning that “forced migration is not a temporary crisis; it is an on-going reality”.

Signatories include Reverend Leslie Newton, head of the Methodist Church in Yorkshire, who says the atrocities in Ukraine demonstrate why “we must not close the doors on those in need of safety”.

But President Putin’s decision to Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent forces on alert, dramatically ratcheting up the tensions over Ukraine, that perplexed world leaders.

The United States denounced the actions as “completely unacceptable” as Russian television footage showed President Putin instructing his defence minister and the chief of the general staff to put the nuclear deterrent on a “special regime of combat duty”.

He cited “aggressive statements” coming from Western powers and hard-hitting economic sanctions – which include the exclusion of Russian banks from the Swift global payments system – as justification.

But Ms Truss, who grew up in Leeds, told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme: “This could well be the beginning of the end for Putin. I fear that he is prepared to use the most unsavoury means in this war.”

Asked about Russia’s arsenal of chemical and tactical nuclear weapons, she said: “I fear this conflict could be very, very bloody. I urge the Russians not to escalate this conflict but we do need to be prepared for Russia to seek to use even worse weapons. I think it would be hugely devastating. We need to avoid this at all costs.”

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app, receive exclusive members-only offers and access to all premium content and columns. Click here to subscribe.