While Putin is threatening nuclear weapons and once again comparing himself to Tsar Peter the Great, Chancellor Scholz is trying to calm down on the subject of nuclear weapons. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expects a Russian winter break in military operations. And Ukraine President Selenskyj speaks of almost 2,000 liberated towns. The situation in the morning.

According to Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the danger of a nuclear escalation in the Ukraine war has decreased. “Russia has stopped threatening to use nuclear weapons. In response to the international community marking a red line,” Scholz told Funke media group newspapers and French newspaper Ouest-France (Thursday).

“During my visit to Beijing, Chinese President Xi and I jointly expressed that nuclear weapons should not be used. Shortly thereafter, the G20 countries reaffirmed this stance.” When asked whether the danger of a nuclear escalation had been averted, the SPD politician said: “For the moment, we have taken a stake against it.”

Putin, meanwhile, once again stressed that Russia’s nuclear weapons were used solely to protect the country and its allies, and as a deterrent. Russia’s military strategy provides for the use of weapons of mass destruction in response to an attack. “That means if a blow is struck against us, then we hit back in response,” Putin said.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price dismissed Putin’s statements to the media: “We find any loose talk about nuclear weapons absolutely irresponsible.”

At a meeting of Russia’s Civil Security and Human Rights Development Council, Putin compared himself to Russia’s Tsar Peter the Great. As reported by the American Institute for War Studies (ISW), the Kremlin chief emphasized that Russia would now control the Sea of ​​Azov, for which Tsar Peter also fought. The ISW warns: “This appeal to Russian imperial history openly portrays Putin’s current goals as imperialist.”

In a speech at the meeting, Putin prepared the population for a long war: “Of course, it can be a long process.” According to the ISW status report, a “protracted, grueling war” is to be expected in Ukraine. Putin would already prepare the Russians for this.

In the winter of 2022/23, the Russian military would seek a pause in operations, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the Financial Times on Wednesday. The Russians are hoping for a major counter-offensive in the spring of 2023, and are therefore “freezing the fighting in Ukraine, at least for a short time,” Stoltenberg said, “in order to regroup, repair, recover.”

However, military analysts from the ISW have doubts about Stoltenberg’s theory, especially around the town of Bachmut, so far there has been no sign of a break in operations. Ukraine’s success depends on its own ability to maintain military action against the Russian occupiers even in winter.

According to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian army has liberated around 2,000 Russian-held towns in the country. “We have already succeeded in liberating 1,888 towns from the occupiers,” said the head of state on Wednesday in his evening video speech. “Almost as many Ukrainian towns and villages are still occupied,” he added.

According to Zelenskyj, Russia attacked the city of Kurakhove near Donetsk in the east of the country on Wednesday. The “very brutal attack” killed ten people and injured “many more”. The Russian troops “targeted normal people,” said the Ukrainian president.

Fighting between the two sides is currently concentrated in the region. “It’s a tough confrontation, every meter counts,” said Zelenskyj.

The son of a former top Russian official with ties to President Vladimir Putin has been acquitted in a drone case in Norway. This was reported by the NTB news agency on Wednesday evening. While the defender of the accused businessman Andrei Yakunin expressed his satisfaction with the verdict, the responsible public prosecutor announced an appeal to the radio station NRK and the newspaper “Verdens Gang”.

Yakunin, a 47-year-old British-Russian national, had denied the allegations before a court in Tromso, northern Norway. There he was accused of flying a drone illegally on a sailing trip in Spitsbergen in the summer, thereby violating sanctions for Russian citizens. He was arrested for this in mid-October.

Yakunin’s father is Vladimir Yakunin, a former Russian Railways chief and one of the founders of the Osero dacha cooperative, of which Putin was also a member. All of the founding members went on to have careers either as businessmen or high-ranking officials after Putin’s election as president. Yakunin himself was sorted out from Putin’s closest circle a few years ago.

Also read: The Ukraine update of December 7th