Vladimir Putin today issued a chilling new threat to use nuclear weapons against the West, telling world leaders to back off Ukraine while warning: 'I'm not bluffing'.
The desperate despot also ordered the mobilisation of 300,000 military reserves - a first in Russia since the Second World War - and gave the go-ahead for referendums to be held in occupied areas of Ukraine that would make them a part of Russia, in the Kremlin's eyes at least.
He vowed to use 'all means' to defend the regions, saying: 'If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all available means to protect Russia and our people - this is not a bluff... I shall stress - by all means available to us. Those trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the tables can turn on them.'
Putin's gambit comes after Ukraine routed a large part of the Russian army last week, leaving him backed into a corner of his own making and facing the possible collapse of his so-called 'special military operation'.