Ukrainian forces pressed ahead with their counteroffensive to liberate Moscow-occupied territories, handing Russian forces a series of defeats that have prompted U.S. President Joe Biden to warn the threat of the Kremlin using nuclear weapons was the highest in six decades.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made thinly veiled threats to use his nuclear arsenal in Ukraine, and Biden told U.S. media on October 6 that Putin was “not joking.”

“We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since [the time of U.S. President John F.] Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis” in 1962, Biden said in New York, adding that “we’re trying to figure out what is Putin’s off-ramp.”

In 1962, the United States under Kennedy and the Soviet Union under its leader, Nikita Khrushchev, came close to using nuclear weapons over the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

Russia last week officially incorporated four Ukrainian regions that it only partially controls in a move that violated international law, and Putin, who marks his 70th birthday on October 7, said Moscow would see Ukrainian attacks on those regions as attacks on Russia itself and would use all means to defend them.

The move came amid rapid Ukrainian advances, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announcing on October 6 more wins in Kherson, one of the four regions claimed by Moscow.

“More than 500 square kilometers have been liberated from Russian occupiers in the Kherson region alone” since the start of the month, Zelenskiy announced in his nightly address.

The recaptured territory was home to dozens of towns and villages that had been occupied by Russian forces for months, southern army command spokeswoman Natalia Gumeniuk said.

Kherson, a region with an estimated prewar population of around 1 million people, was captured early and easily by Moscow’s troops after their invasion launched on February 24.

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