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President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday lauded Moscow’s nuclear arsenal and warned that he was ready to deploy the weapons if Russia’s sovereignty was threatened.

The Kremlin has touted its nuclear prowess throughout its two-year offensive in Ukraine, last month warning Western countries there was a “real” risk of nuclear catastrophe if they escalated the conflict.

Putin’s latest comments come just days ahead of elections in Russia that are all but guaranteed to hand him another six years in power and as his military posts gains in Ukraine.

“Our triad, the nuclear triad, it is more modern than any other triad. Only we and the Americans actually have such triads. And we have advanced much more here,” Putin said in a wide-ranging interview with state media.

The “triad” refers to Russia’s three-pronged arsenal of weapons launched from land, sea and air.

“We are ready to use weapons, including any weapons — including the weapons you mentioned — if it is a question of the existence of the Russian state or damage to our sovereignty and independence,” Putin added in the interview, which aired on Wednesday.

– Strike on Russian oil facilities –

The Russian leader also dismissed comments by French leader Emmanuel Macron, who last month declined to rule out putting boots on the ground, a significant shift in rhetoric as Ukraine struggles on the battlefield.

“The fact is that the militaries of Western countries have been present in Ukraine for a long time,” the Russian leader said, referring to what the Kremlin says are mercenaries.

“But if we talk about official military contingents of foreign countries, I am sure it will not change the situation on the battlefield,” he added.

While Macron has doubled down on his remarks, several of Ukraine’s allies, including Washington, have distanced themselves from the idea, which stunned many in Europe.

Putin’s comments came hours after Kyiv targeted Russia’s energy infrastructure and border regions for the second day in a row.

Ukrainian drones attacked three oil refineries hundreds of kilometres from the frontline in the regions of Ryazan, Nizhny Novgorod and Leningrad, a security source told AFP.

“Our task is to deprive the enemy of resources and reduce the flow of oil money and fuel,” the source said.

One drone caused a fire and wounded several people when it crashed into an oil refinery in the Ryazan region that lies some 200 kilometres (120 miles) southeast of Moscow, Ryazan regional governor Pavel Malkov wrote on Telegram.

In the Rostov region bordering Ukraine, drones landed on the site of an oil refinery in the city of Novoshakhtinsk, regional governor Vasily Golubev said.

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