"It's better not to mess with Russia"

‘Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers.’

Mr Putin also launched an astonishing verbal assault on the Ukrainian government, comparing it to the Nazis and saying its actions in the east of the country ‘sadly reminds me of the events of the Second World War, when German fascist… occupiers surrounded our cities’.

Russia is one of five countries which has nuclear weapons as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Mr Putin has the second largest stockpile of warheads in the world – 4,300 according to the latest estimates from the Federation of American Scientists.

Of those, approximately 1,600 are long-range land and sea-based ballistic missiles.