Russia's economy has been hit pretty hard by economic sanctions from the U.S. and Europe over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and military support for separatist rebels in Eastern Ukraine. On Wednesday, two days before the latest round of peace talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko begin in Milan, Russian President Vladimir Putin played the nuke card in an interview with the Serbian newspaper Politika.
"We hope that our partners will realize the recklessness of attempts to blackmail Russia, will remember the risks that a spat between major nuclear powers incurs for strategic stability," Putin said. "For our part, we are ready to develop constructive cooperation on the principles of equality and real consideration of mutual interests." How can Russia and Ukraine make peace when "one-sided, illegitimate restrictive measures" are "complicating dialogue"? Putin asked.
Russia officially denies that it is aiding the pro-Moscow rebels. The cease-fire in Eastern Ukraine has barely held, with hundreds killed in shelling and other attacks.