Ukraine has warned that it could build nuclear weapons to combat Russia if the West does not allow it to join NATO.
This comes as Vladimir Putin has deployed tens of thousands of troops and tanks to the Ukrainian border in a worrying escalation of tensions.
Ukraine was formerly a nuclear state with 176 ballistic missiles and 44 strategic bombers following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
However, the country agreed to eliminate its nukes in return for legally-binding security guarantees from Britain, the US and Russia.
But with Putin threatening to invade, seven years after he annexed Crimea using armed militias, Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnik said the country is considering all its options.
He said: “Ukraine has no other choice – either we are part of an alliance such as NATO and are doing our part to make this Europe stronger, or we have the only option – to arm ourselves and maybe think about nuclear status again.
“How else can we guarantee our defence?”
He added: “We must do everything possible to ensure that Putin will not attack us tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. “
NATO is an alliance of western powers that was set up in the aftermath of World War II to combat the threat of the Soviet Union.
Mr Melnik said if Ukraine had been a NATO member in 2014, then the annexation of Crimea would not have happened.
Speaking of the reported 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, he said: “This deployment is not just muscle flexing…
“We are dealing with the largest troop movement in Russia since the Second World War.”
Russian state-owned Sputnik news agency reports that Ukraine “likely retains the technical capability to build a nuclear arsenal”.
But it added: “The state of its civilian nuclear power programme leaves something to be desired.
“Last year, Ukrainian nuclear industry workers sounded the alarm about the threat of ‘another Chernobyl’ citing a ‘dire situation’ which they said was ‘taking shape in the country’s nuclear energy sector’ due to a lack of oversight, safety permits, and funds.”
This comes as Ukraine’s defence minister Andrii Taran warned Moscow is looking to store nukes in the flashpoint region.
“Crimea’s infrastructure is being prepared for potentially storing nuclear weapons,” Taran told the European Parliament’s defence sub-committee.
“The very presence of nuclear munitions in the peninsula may spark a whole array of complex political, legal and moral problems”, he said.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian navy threatened to shoot at Russian FSB security service patrol boats in a worrying flashpoint in the Azov Sea, say reports.
In the latest of several spats, five vessels carried out “provocative manoeuvres” around three artillery boats of Ukraine’s navy.
“In response to the threats from the Russian vessels, our sailors had to warn of a readiness to use weapons,” said Andrii Klymenko, editor of Black Sea News.
After the Kiev sailors issued the threat to shoot, they were allowed to proceed, he said.
“Russia continues to violate international law,” said the Ukrainian navy
Yesterday, Ukraine protested against Russia’s decision to bar foreign warships and state vessels from parts of the Black Sea in the direction of the Kerch Strait from next week until October.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry said: “It is Ukraine that has the right to regulate navigation in these parts of the Black Sea.”
But it’s not just the sea Putin is attempting to control.
Satellite images show Russia has installed in Crimea S-400 anti-aircraft systems with a range of 250 miles, according to Information Navigator.
This allows “the Russian occupation forces to control almost all the airspace of the Black Sea”.
-The Sun (US)