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Putin puts nuclear forces on high alert, escalating tensions

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A civil defense man stands guard at a checkpoint in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russian troops stormed toward Ukraine's capital Saturday, ...
Ukrainian soldiers stand next to a burnt military truck, in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russian troops stormed toward Ukraine'...
People lie on mattresses in the underground parking lot of a hotel that has been turned into a bomb shelter during an air raid alert in Kyiv, Ukraine,...
Protesters hold up their placards during a rally against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, near the Russian Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 27...
Children who fled the conflict from neighboring Ukraine play on the floor of an event hall in a hotel offering shelter in Siret, Romania, Saturday, Fe...
A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russian troops stormed towar...
A man sits next to his dogs on mattress in a hotel underground parking turned into a bomb shelter during an air raid alert in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, F...
Ukranian refugees arrive at Przemysl train station in Przemysl, Poland, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. The U.N. refugee agency said Saturday that nearly 120...
Ukrainian soldiers take positions outside a military facility as two cars burn, in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russian troops ...
A Ukrainian protester holds a sign during a demonstration against the Russian invasion of  Ukraine in Los Angeles, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Ukrainians...
A woman sleeps on chairs in the underground parking lot of a hotel that has been turned into a bomb shelter during an air raid alert in Kyiv, Ukraine,...
Ukrainian soldiers take positions outside a military facility after an explosion in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russian troops stormed tow...
A woman looks at her mobile phone in a hotel underground parking turned into a bomb shelter during an air raid alert in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27...
Ukrainian soldiers handle equipment outside Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed Saturday that Ukraine's f...
Ukrainian troops escort a man who they suspect is a Russian agent in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Ukrainian authorities say that Russian troo...
In this photo taken from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation in Ky...
Workers sort out goods outside a mall, also known as Russia Market, for Russian and Ukrainian traders in Beijing, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. China is the ...
In this photo taken from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation in Ky...
A Ukrainian soldier smokes a cigarette on his position at an armored vehicle outside Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. President Volodymyr Ze...
Armed civil defense men pose for a photo while patroling an empty street due to curfew in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Ukrainian authorities ...
Members of civil defense prepare Molotov cocktails in a yard in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. A Ukrainian official says street fighting has br...
An armed civil defense woman holds a Kalashnikov assault rifle while patrolling an empty street due to a curfew in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 202...
In this photo taken from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation in Ky...
People fleeing the conflict in neighboring Ukraine cross the border in Przemysl, Poland, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's...
A refugee fleeing conflict in Ukraine arrives to Przemysl, Poland, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's second-largest city S...
A couple and their dogs sit in a hotel underground parking turned into a bomb shelter during an air raid alert in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022...
A view of Khreshchatyk, the main street, empty, due to curfew in the central of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. A Ukrainian official says street...
People walk down the bulevard 'Strasse des 17. Juni' ahead of a rally against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. ...
Faithful display Ukrainian flags during Pope Francis' Angelus noon prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Grego...
People stand in line to withdraw money from an ATM of Alfa Bank in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Russians flocked to banks and ATMs shortly a...
Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, second left, attends a meeting in the City Hall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. A Ukrainian offi...
A member of civil defense takes a rest after his duty in the City Hall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. A Ukrainian official says street fight...
A women holds a child and a dog in a shelter inside a building in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's sec...
FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin enters a hall to chair a Security Council meeting in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. Putin ordered Russ...
A child says goodbye to a relative looking out the window of a train carriage waiting to leave Ukraine for western Ukraine at the railway station in K...
Vitali Klitschko, Kyiv Mayor and former heavyweight champion, speaks on the phone in his office in the City Hall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 20...
People take shelter inside a building in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's second-largest city and Russ...
People take shelter inside a building in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's second-largest city and Russ...
A women holds a child and a dog in a shelter inside a building in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's sec...
An armored personnel carrier burns and damaged light utility vehicles stand abandoned after fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. The c...
Ukrainian soldiers inspect a damaged military vehicle after fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. The city authorities said that Ukrain...
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, speaks to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, second left, and Head of the General Staff of the Armed For...
Passengers wait for a train to Poland, inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. The U.N. has estimated the conflict ...
A man looks out of the Dnipro-Truskavets train, at the Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. The U.N. has estimated the ...
A couple embrace prior to the woman boarding a train carriage leaving for western Ukraine, at the railway station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Sund...
Passengers waiting for a train to Poland inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. The U.N. has estimated the conflic...
A man walks on an empty street during a curfew in the central of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. A Ukrainian official says street fighting has b...
A woman reacts as paramedics perform CPR on a girl who was injured during shelling, at city hospital of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 20...
The lifeless body of a girl killed during the shelling of a residential area lies on a medical cart at the city hospital of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine,...
Oleksandr Konovalov, an ambulance paramedic performs CPR on a girl injured by the shelling of a residential area, after arriving at the city hospital ...
Passengers wait at the platform inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. Thousands of people massed at Lviv's main t...
ADDS THAT THE PERSONNEL CARRIER IS RUSSIAN - A Russian armored personnel carrier burns amid damaged and abandoned light utility vehicles after fightin...
Members of civil defense prepare Molotov cocktails in a yard in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. A Ukrainian official says street fighting has br...
African residents in Ukraine wait at the platform inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. Thousands of people masse...
An emergency vehicle drives on an empty street during a curfew in the central of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. A Ukrainian official says stree...
A damaged and burnt military vehicle is seen after fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. The city authorities said that Ukrainian force...
Passengers wait at the platform inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. Thousands of people massed at Lviv's main t...
Pro-Ukrainian people hold banners and Ukrainian flags during a protest in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, after Russian troops have launche...
People walk down the bulevard 'Strasse des 17. Juni' ahead of a rally against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. ...
A cameraman films as an armored vehicle rolls outside Mykolaivka, Donetsk region, the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants, eastern Ukraine, ...
A Ukrainian family waits for a train inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. Thousands of people massed at Lviv's m...
People take part in a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine outside the White House in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick ...
A Ukrainian family waits for a train inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. Thousands of people massed at Lviv's m...
An armored vehicle rolls outside Mykolaivka, Donetsk region, the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants, in eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2...
A man looks out of the Dnipro-Truskavets train, at the Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. The U.N. has estimated the ...
Medics perform CPR on a girl at the city hospital of Mariupol, who was injured during shelling in a residential area in eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. ...
A woman holds up a sign during a rally in support of Ukraine in Montreal, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)
Refugees from Ukraine rest after arriving to the railway station in Przemysl, Poland, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's se...
Ukrainian soldiers handle equipment from a damaged military vehicle after fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. The city authorities sa...
A civil defense man sleeps in front of posters of Vitali Klitschko, Kyiv Mayor and former heavyweight champion in the City Hall, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sun...
Refugees from Ukraine arrive to the railway station in Przemysl, Poland, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's second-largest ...
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on as he visits the construction site of the National Space Agency on the premises of the Khrunichev State Rese...
A convoy of military trucks parked in a street in Mykolaivka, Donetsk region, the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants, eastern Ukraine, Sund...
A child that fled the conflict from neighboring Ukraine with his family sits in a tent at the Romanian-Ukrainian border, in Siret, Romania, Sunday, Fe...
A Ukrainian woman reacts after arriving at the Medyka border crossing, in Poland, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Since Russia launched its offensive on Ukrain...
A protester raises a photograph of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a rally against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at central Syntagma square...
Refugees from Ukraine arrive to the railway station in Przemysl, Poland, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's second-largest ...

A civil defense man stands guard at a checkpoint in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russian troops stormed toward Ukraine's capital Saturday, ...

Ukrainian soldiers stand next to a burnt military truck, in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russian troops stormed toward Ukraine'...

People lie on mattresses in the underground parking lot of a hotel that has been turned into a bomb shelter during an air raid alert in Kyiv, Ukraine,...

Protesters hold up their placards during a rally against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, near the Russian Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 27...

Children who fled the conflict from neighboring Ukraine play on the floor of an event hall in a hotel offering shelter in Siret, Romania, Saturday, Fe...

A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russian troops stormed towar...

A man sits next to his dogs on mattress in a hotel underground parking turned into a bomb shelter during an air raid alert in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, F...

Ukranian refugees arrive at Przemysl train station in Przemysl, Poland, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. The U.N. refugee agency said Saturday that nearly 120...

Ukrainian soldiers take positions outside a military facility as two cars burn, in a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russian troops ...

A Ukrainian protester holds a sign during a demonstration against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in Los Angeles, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Ukrainians...

A woman sleeps on chairs in the underground parking lot of a hotel that has been turned into a bomb shelter during an air raid alert in Kyiv, Ukraine,...

Ukrainian soldiers take positions outside a military facility after an explosion in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Russian troops stormed tow...

A woman looks at her mobile phone in a hotel underground parking turned into a bomb shelter during an air raid alert in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27...

Ukrainian soldiers handle equipment outside Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed Saturday that Ukraine's f...

Ukrainian troops escort a man who they suspect is a Russian agent in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Ukrainian authorities say that Russian troo...

In this photo taken from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation in Ky...

Workers sort out goods outside a mall, also known as Russia Market, for Russian and Ukrainian traders in Beijing, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. China is the ...

In this photo taken from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation in Ky...

A Ukrainian soldier smokes a cigarette on his position at an armored vehicle outside Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. President Volodymyr Ze...

Armed civil defense men pose for a photo while patroling an empty street due to curfew in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Ukrainian authorities ...

Members of civil defense prepare Molotov cocktails in a yard in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. A Ukrainian official says street fighting has br...

An armed civil defense woman holds a Kalashnikov assault rifle while patrolling an empty street due to a curfew in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 202...

In this photo taken from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation in Ky...

People fleeing the conflict in neighboring Ukraine cross the border in Przemysl, Poland, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's...

A refugee fleeing conflict in Ukraine arrives to Przemysl, Poland, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's second-largest city S...

A couple and their dogs sit in a hotel underground parking turned into a bomb shelter during an air raid alert in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022...

A view of Khreshchatyk, the main street, empty, due to curfew in the central of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. A Ukrainian official says street...

People walk down the bulevard 'Strasse des 17. Juni' ahead of a rally against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. ...

Faithful display Ukrainian flags during Pope Francis' Angelus noon prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Grego...

People stand in line to withdraw money from an ATM of Alfa Bank in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Russians flocked to banks and ATMs shortly a...

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, second left, attends a meeting in the City Hall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. A Ukrainian offi...

A member of civil defense takes a rest after his duty in the City Hall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. A Ukrainian official says street fight...

A women holds a child and a dog in a shelter inside a building in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's sec...

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin enters a hall to chair a Security Council meeting in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. Putin ordered Russ...

A child says goodbye to a relative looking out the window of a train carriage waiting to leave Ukraine for western Ukraine at the railway station in K...

Vitali Klitschko, Kyiv Mayor and former heavyweight champion, speaks on the phone in his office in the City Hall in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 20...

People take shelter inside a building in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's second-largest city and Russ...

People take shelter inside a building in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's second-largest city and Russ...

A women holds a child and a dog in a shelter inside a building in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's sec...

An armored personnel carrier burns and damaged light utility vehicles stand abandoned after fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. The c...

Ukrainian soldiers inspect a damaged military vehicle after fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. The city authorities said that Ukrain...

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, speaks to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, second left, and Head of the General Staff of the Armed For...

Passengers wait for a train to Poland, inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. The U.N. has estimated the conflict ...

A man looks out of the Dnipro-Truskavets train, at the Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. The U.N. has estimated the ...

A couple embrace prior to the woman boarding a train carriage leaving for western Ukraine, at the railway station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Sund...

Passengers waiting for a train to Poland inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. The U.N. has estimated the conflic...

A man walks on an empty street during a curfew in the central of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. A Ukrainian official says street fighting has b...

A woman reacts as paramedics perform CPR on a girl who was injured during shelling, at city hospital of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 20...

The lifeless body of a girl killed during the shelling of a residential area lies on a medical cart at the city hospital of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine,...

Oleksandr Konovalov, an ambulance paramedic performs CPR on a girl injured by the shelling of a residential area, after arriving at the city hospital ...

Passengers wait at the platform inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. Thousands of people massed at Lviv's main t...

ADDS THAT THE PERSONNEL CARRIER IS RUSSIAN - A Russian armored personnel carrier burns amid damaged and abandoned light utility vehicles after fightin...

Members of civil defense prepare Molotov cocktails in a yard in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. A Ukrainian official says street fighting has br...

African residents in Ukraine wait at the platform inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. Thousands of people masse...

An emergency vehicle drives on an empty street during a curfew in the central of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. A Ukrainian official says stree...

A damaged and burnt military vehicle is seen after fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. The city authorities said that Ukrainian force...

Passengers wait at the platform inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. Thousands of people massed at Lviv's main t...

Pro-Ukrainian people hold banners and Ukrainian flags during a protest in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, after Russian troops have launche...

People walk down the bulevard 'Strasse des 17. Juni' ahead of a rally against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. ...

A cameraman films as an armored vehicle rolls outside Mykolaivka, Donetsk region, the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants, eastern Ukraine, ...

A Ukrainian family waits for a train inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. Thousands of people massed at Lviv's m...

People take part in a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine outside the White House in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick ...

A Ukrainian family waits for a train inside Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. Thousands of people massed at Lviv's m...

An armored vehicle rolls outside Mykolaivka, Donetsk region, the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants, in eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2...

A man looks out of the Dnipro-Truskavets train, at the Lviv railway station, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. The U.N. has estimated the ...

Medics perform CPR on a girl at the city hospital of Mariupol, who was injured during shelling in a residential area in eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. ...

A woman holds up a sign during a rally in support of Ukraine in Montreal, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

Refugees from Ukraine rest after arriving to the railway station in Przemysl, Poland, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's se...

Ukrainian soldiers handle equipment from a damaged military vehicle after fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. The city authorities sa...

A civil defense man sleeps in front of posters of Vitali Klitschko, Kyiv Mayor and former heavyweight champion in the City Hall, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sun...

Refugees from Ukraine arrive to the railway station in Przemysl, Poland, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's second-largest ...

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on as he visits the construction site of the National Space Agency on the premises of the Khrunichev State Rese...

A convoy of military trucks parked in a street in Mykolaivka, Donetsk region, the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants, eastern Ukraine, Sund...

A child that fled the conflict from neighboring Ukraine with his family sits in a tent at the Romanian-Ukrainian border, in Siret, Romania, Sunday, Fe...

A Ukrainian woman reacts after arriving at the Medyka border crossing, in Poland, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Since Russia launched its offensive on Ukrain...

A protester raises a photograph of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a rally against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at central Syntagma square...

Refugees from Ukraine arrive to the railway station in Przemysl, Poland, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's second-largest ...

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — President Vladimir Putin dramatically escalated East-West tensions by ordering Russian nuclear forces put on high alert Sunday, while Ukraine's embattled leader agreed to talks with Moscow as Putin's troops and tanks drove deeper into the country, closing in around the capital.

Citing “aggressive statements” by NATO and tough financial sanctions, Putin issued a directive to increase the readiness of Russia's nuclear weapons, raising fears that the invasion of Ukraine could lead to nuclear war, whether by design or mistake.

The Russian leader is “potentially putting in play forces that, if there’s a miscalculation, could make things much, much more dangerous,” said a senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss rapidly unfolding military operations.

Putin's directive came as Russian forces encountered strong resistance from Ukraine defenders. Moscow has so far failed to win full control of Ukraine’s airspace, despite advances across the country. U.S. officials say they believe the invasion has been more difficult, and slower, than the Kremlin envisioned, though that could change as Moscow adapts.

Amid the mounting tensions, Western nations said they would tighten sanctions and buy and deliver weapons for Ukraine, including Stinger missiles for shooting down helicopters and other aircraft.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, meanwhile, announced plans for a meeting with a Russian delegation at an unspecified location on the Belarusian border.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the meeting would take place, nor what the Kremlin was ultimately seeking, either in those potential talks on the border or, more broadly, from its war in Ukraine. Western officials believe Putin wants to overthrow Ukraine’s government and replace it with a regime of his own, reviving Moscow’s Cold War-era influence.

The fast-moving developments came as scattered fighting was reported in Kyiv. Battles also broke out in Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, and strategic ports in the country's south came under assault from Russian forces.

By late Sunday, Russian forces had taken Berdyansk, a Ukrainian city of 100,000 on the Azov Sea coast, according to Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to Zelenskyy’s office. Russian troops also made advances toward Kherson, another city in the south of Ukraine, while Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov that is considered a prime Russian target, is “hanging on," Arestovich said.

With Russian troops closing in around Kyiv, a city of almost 3 million, the mayor of the capital expressed doubt that civilians could be evacuated. Authorities have been handing out weapons to anyone willing to defend the city. Ukraine is also releasing prisoners with military experience who want to fight, and training people to make firebombs.

In Mariupol, where Ukrainians were trying to fend off attack, a medical team at a city hospital desperately tried to revive a 6-year-old girl in unicorn pajamas who was mortally wounded in Russian shelling.

During the rescue attempt, a doctor in blue medical scrubs, pumping oxygen into the girl, looked directly into the Associated Press video camera capturing the scene.

“Show this to Putin," he said angrily. “The eyes of this child, and crying doctors."

Their resuscitation efforts failed, and the girl lay dead on a gurney, her jacket spattered with blood.

Nearly 900 kilometers (560 miles) away, Faina Bystritska was under threat in the city of Chernihiv.

“I wish I had never lived to see this,” said Bystritska, an 87-year-old Jewish survivor of World War II. She said sirens blare almost constantly in the city, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) from Kyiv.

Chernihiv residents have been told not to switch on any lights “so we don’t draw their attention,” said Bystritska, who has been living in a hallway, away from any windows, so she could better protect herself.

“The window glass constantly shakes, and there is this constant thundering noise,” she said.

Meanwhile, the top official in the European Union outlined plans by the 27-nation bloc to close its airspace to Russian airlines and buy weapons for Ukraine. The EU will also ban some pro-Kremlin media outlets, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The U.S. also stepped up the flow of weapons to Ukraine, announcing it will send Stinger missiles as part of a package approved by the White House on Friday. Germany likewise plans to send 500 Stingers and other military supplies.

Also, the 193-member U.N. General Assembly scheduled an emergency session Monday on Russia's invasion.

Putin, in ordering the nuclear alert, cited not only statements by NATO members but the hard-hitting financial sanctions imposed by the West against Russia, including Putin himself.

“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country,” Putin said in televised comments.

U.S. defense officials would not disclose their current nuclear alert level except to say that the military is prepared all times to defend its homeland and allies.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told ABC that Putin is resorting to the pattern he used in the weeks before the invasion, “which is to manufacture threats that don’t exist in order to justify further aggression.”

The practical meaning of Putin’s order was not immediately clear. Russia and the United States typically have land- and submarine-based nuclear forces that are on alert and prepared for combat at all times, but nuclear-capable bombers and other aircraft are not.

If Putin is arming or otherwise raising the nuclear combat readiness of his bombers, or if he is ordering more ballistic missile submarines to sea, then the U.S. might feel compelled to respond in kind, said Hans Kristensen, a nuclear analyst at the Federation of American Scientists.

Earlier Sunday, Kyiv was eerily quiet after explosions lit up the morning sky and authorities reported blasts at one airport. A main boulevard was practically deserted as a strict curfew kept people off the streets. Authorities warned that anyone venturing out without a pass would be considered a Russian saboteur.

Terrified residents hunkered down in homes, underground garages and subway stations in anticipation of a full-scale Russian assault. Food and medicine were running low, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

“Right now, the most important question is to defend our country,” Klitschko said.

In downtown Kharkiv, 86-year-old Olena Dudnik said she and her husband were nearly thrown from their bed by the pressure blast of a nearby explosion.

“We are suffering immensely,” she said by phone. “We don’t have much food in the pantry, and I worry the stores aren’t going to have anything either, if they reopen." She added: “I just want the shooting to stop, people to stop being killed."

Russia’s failure thus far to win full control of Ukraine’s airspace is a surprising lapse that has given outgunned Ukrainian forces a chance to slow the advance of Russian ground forces. Normally, gaining what the military calls air superiority is one of the first priorities for an invading force.

But even though Russian troops are being slowed by Ukrainian resistance, fuel shortages and other logistical problems, a senior U.S. defense official said that will probably change. “We are in day four. The Russians will learn and adapt,” the official said.

The number of casualties from Europe's largest land conflict since World War II remained unclear amid the confusion.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said Sunday that 352 Ukrainian civilians have been killed, including 14 children. It said an additional 1,684 people, including 116 children, have been wounded.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov gave no figures on Russia's dead and wounded but said Sunday his country's losses were “many times” lower than Ukraine's.

About 368,000 Ukrainians have arrived in neighboring countries since the invasion started Thursday, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

Along with military assistance, the U.S., European Union and Britain also agreed to block selected Russian banks from the SWIFT system, which moves money around thousands of banks and other financial institutions worldwide. They also moved to slap restrictions on Russia’s central bank.

Russia's economy has taken a pounding since the invasion, with the ruble plunging and the central bank calling for calm to avoid bank runs.

Russia, which massed almost 200,000 troops along Ukraine's borders, claims its assault is aimed only at military targets, but bridges, schools and residential neighborhoods have also been hit.

___

Isachenkov reported from Moscow. Ellen Knickmeyer, Eric Tucker, Robert Burns and Hope Yen in Washington; Francesca Ebel, Josef Federman and Andrew Drake in Kyiv; Mstyslav Chernov and Nic Dumitrache in Mariupol, Ukraine; and other AP journalists from around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine