The Russian president’s tightly-controlled state TV went into overdrive to warn alliance leaders against deploying any troops even acting to maintain peace.
The latest threats from the Kremlin came as footage showed the funeral with full military honours of deputy commander of the Black Sea fleet, Andrei Paliy, 51, killed during fighting in Mariupol on March 20.
The broadcast saw blunt and concerted warnings from Putin’s propaganda mouthpieces on state television worrying that if NATO sends peacekeepers to Ukraine they will initiate World War 3.
Olga Skabeyeva, host of state-owned Rossiya 1’s show 60 Minutes, said: “If NATO members send peacekeepers to Ukraine…
“They should understand that this will represent a direct clash between the armed forces of Russia and NATO.
“And how this collision will end is probably not worth explaining… This is called World War Three.”
And on Kremlin-controlled Channel 1, military expert Col. Yury Knutov, echoed the same line.
“If there are any sane people left in NATO, they will not approve [a peacekeeping] operation [in Ukraine],” said Knutov, also head of the Russian air defence museum.
“Why? Because [a collective] NATO decision will mean a de facto declaration of war on Russia….
“This would be a Casus belli, meaning war between Russia and NATO. To win this war, whether we like it or not, we will have to use tactical nuclear weapons in the theatre of operations.
Pro-Kremlin TV also claimed that Warsaw could seek to grab back Ukrainian territory formerly part of Poland, as the city of Lviv.
Presenter Vyacheslav Nikonov said Russian truck drivers stuck on the border had spotted “an accumulation of American and Polish troops.
“As for me, Poland strives not just to fulfil a peacekeeping mission, but to stake out the territories which they consider belonging to them historically.”