By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
KYIV/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Europe faced growing instability Wednesday amid fears of a possible Russian nuclear attack in wartorn Ukraine and suspected sabotage at crucial natural gas pipelines.
Poland’s foreign minister, Zbigniew Rau, said the response of the U.S.-led NATO military alliance to any use of nuclear weapons in neighboring Ukraine should be non-nuclear but “devastating.”
His comments came after Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, threatened the West with the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, saying: “Imagine that Russia is forced to use the most formidable weapon against the Ukrainian regime, which has committed a large-scale act of aggression, which is dangerous for the very existence of our state. I believe that NATO will not directly intervene in the conflict, even in this situation.”
President Volodymyr Zelensky has condemned Moscow’s threats. And he warned that Ukraine would “defend” its citizens in Moscow-held regions that authorities have claimed voted in favor of merging with Russia.
Since Friday, hastily organized Russia-backed referendums have been held in four regions of Ukraine. Moscow reportedly rushes to annex them as early as Friday after serious battlefield setbacks.
That would potentially bring a nuclear conflict closer as Moscow allows any threat to what it views as its territorial integrity as a reason to use nuclear weapons.
Yet, Zelensky warned in a video on social media: “We will act to protect our people, both in the Kherson region, in the Zaporizhzhia region, in the Donbas, in the currently occupied areas of the Kharkiv region, and in Crimea.”
OFFICIALS CLAIM VICTORY
Kremlin-backed officials in the four Ukrainian regions holding “referendums” claimed victory on Tuesday amid international condemnation of sham ballots.
President Vladimir Putin was scheduled to address both houses of the Russian parliament to formally announce the accession into Russia of the Ukraine territories that held referendums.
Putin said on Tuesday that Russia wanted to “save people” in the territories.
Western countries have denounced the referendum results. The U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said the West would never recognize Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory, which he called part of a “diabolical scheme” by Moscow.
NATO called the referendums a “sham” and “violation of international law.”
The verbal war and nuclear threats came while European leaders also noticed that “sabotage” is the most likely cause of leaks in two Nord Stream natural gas pipelines between Russia and Europe.
Seismologists reported explosions around the Baltic Sea lines. Denmark’s military issued an image of gas bubbling at the surface of the Baltic after the “unprecedented” damage to the pipelines, Worthy News monitored.
The president of the European Union’s executive European Commission expressed outrage. Ursula Von der Leyen threatened the “strongest possible response” to any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure.
Swedish police said they had launched a preliminary investigation into possible sabotage. Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, called the leaks “an act of sabotage” that “related to the next step of escalation of the situation in Ukraine.”
And there were no signs the war would end soon despite Hungary’s pro-Russia Prime Minister Viktor Orbán calling for a ceasefire, peace talks, and an end to sanctions.
The clashes worried the United Nations human rights office, which says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to many human rights violations. Crimes reportedly included extrajudicial killings and torture – that could amount to war crimes.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report that it was particularly concerned about torture and ill-treatment of detainees by Russian forces and affiliated armed groups.
However, it also acknowledged that there had been rights violations by both sides.
And with Russia facing a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive, Moscow is calling up an additional 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine, adding to more misery.
Kyiv and others fear Ukrainians and other minorities in occupied territories will be forced to participate in the fight against Ukrainian forces.
Georgia and Kazakhstan said that tens of thousands of Russians had flooded into their countries from neighboring Russia as military-aged men avoided military call-up.
The governments of nearby Bulgaria and Poland are urging any citizens in the Russian Federation to leave urgently.
They say border crossings are becoming much more difficult as routes are closed as more people flee forced mobilization in Russia.
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