UPDATE 1-EU executive tells Putin to stop 'reckless' nuclear gamble

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By Gabriela Baczynska

BRUSSELS, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin latest steps in the war against Russia show his desperation, and he has resorted to a "reckless" nuclear gamble to further escalate tensions, the European Union's executive said on Wednesday.

Earlier, Putin ordered Russia's first mobilisation since World War Two and backed a plan to annex swathes of Ukraine, warning the West he was not bluffing when he said he would be ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia.

"This is just another proof that Putin is not interested in peace, that he's interested in escalating this war of aggression," a foreign policy spokesman for the European Commission, Peter Stano, told a regular news briefing.

"This is also yet another sign of his desperation with how his aggression is going against Ukraine ... he is only interested in further advancing and continuing his destructive war, which has had already so many bad consequences worldwide."

Stano said the global food and energy crises were driven by Russia's war and that Putin's "very dangerous nuclear gamble" could trigger even more consequences for the world.

He said the 27 EU countries, as well as international leaders meeting at the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week were discussing a joint reaction, adding that the international community had to put pressure on Putin to "stop such reckless behaviour."

"Putin is doing a nuclear gamble. He's using the nuclear element as part of his arsenal of terror, it's unacceptable," Stano said.

He said there would be "consequences from our part" but declined to announce any new sanctions against Russia. He said "sham, illegal referenda" that Moscow backed in Ukrainian regions it occupies would not be recognised. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Marine Strauss, Bart Meijer, John Chalmers)