Rutte responds to Putin: Free world united behind Ukraine; EU tightens Russia, Belarus sanctions
Dutch Prime Minister Rutte took to social media on Sunday afternoon to address the increasingly threatening language used by Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The entire free and democratic world is, more than ever, united in support of Ukraine,” Rutte wrote on Twitter.
Soon after, the European Commission announced it will send weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, the first time in its history that it has taken such a step. It also announced that all Russian Central Bank assets in the European Union will be frozen, and oligarchs will be punished. The entire European Union will also close its airspace to Russian aircraft. The media outlets Russia Today and Sputnik have also been banned because they serve as a mouthpiece for the Kremlin, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Foreign Affairs chief Josep Borrell said.
Additionally, sanctions were also imposed on Belarus. Putin used his allegiance with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko to launch part of the Russian invasion from that country into Ukraine. Belarus will not be able to export its goods to Europe, including cement, iron, steel, tobacco and wood.
Rutte also said that he spoke with the leaders of many countries, including Presidents Maia Sandu of Moldova and Salome Zourabichvili of Georgia about the Russian invasion into Ukraine. “I reiterated the Netherlands’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova and Georgia. The Netherlands is sending humanitarian aid for sheltering refugees in Moldova.” He also spoke with the leaders of Poland and the Baltic States on Sunday about sanctions against Russia and sending more military supplies to Ukraine.
Putin on Sunday called on Russia's military leadership to step up their nuclear deterrent forces, including weapons. Putin has accused the West of taking hostile measures against his country since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
“As you can see, the Western countries are not only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic area. I’m speaking about the illegitimate sanctions of which everyone is well aware. However, the top officials of the leading NATO countries also make aggressive statements against our country as well,” Putin said in remarks to his minister defense and chief of staff which were broadcast on state media.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the order an attempt by Russia to put pressure on Ukraine during negotiations between the two countries announced on Sunday. "If Putin uses nuclear weapons against Ukraine it will be a catastrophe for the world, but it will not break us," he said.
US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, condemned Putin's order. “It means that President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable, and we have to continue to condemn his actions in the strongest possible way,” she said in an interview with Face the National on the U.S. broadcaster, CBS.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told CNN Putin was using “dangerous rhetoric,” adding, “This is behavior that is irresponsible.” According to Stoltenberg, the president's statement fits with his aggressive manner of speaking in recent weeks.
Reporting by ANP.