Western leaders have piled in to condemn Putin today, insisting that his threatening new speech is an act of desperation designed to shore up a collapsing war effort

This morning, in a televised address to the nation – Putin’s first such speech since the day Russia began its so-called “special military operation” back in February – he made a three-pronged announcement.

The Russian leader renewed his nuclear threat to the West, insisting further retaliation was “not a bluff” and “Russia will use all the means at (its) disposal” to defend its territorial integrity.

He confirmed that pro-Moscow leaders of four occupied areas of Ukraine will hold urgent “referendums”. Those in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions are expected to “vote” on joining Russia between Friday and next Tuesday.