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IANS

Russian President Vladimir Putin has placed the countrys nuclear deterrent forces on "special" alert on Sunday, RT reported.

The move was announced during Putin's meeting with Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov.

"Western countries are not only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic area. I'm speaking about the illegitimate sanctions that everyone is well aware of. However, the top officials of the leading NATO countries also make aggressive statements against our country as well," Putin stated.

The move comes in response to "hostile" rhetoric by top NATO officials, he said, RT reported.

Putin earlier on Sunday praised his special forces for "heroically carrying out their military duties" in a new televised address, Daily Mail reported.

Putin gave his "special gratitude" for troops involved in the "special operation to provide assistance to the people's republics of Donbas" - a reference to the Kremlin's propaganda line that it intervened in Ukraine to help pro-Russian separatists who were at risk of 'genocide' at the hands of the legitimate government, the report said.

Putin spoke to mark the annual day of Special Operations Forces (SOF), as his huge forces appeared to be stepping up their battle to crush Ukrainian resistance amid mounting Russian losses.

Russian forces on Sunday entered Ukraine's second largest city of Kharkiv after failing in their overnight efforts to seize control of the capital city of Kyiv - as Ukraine's president today said his country were ready for peace talks.

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