There are serious concerns about what Vladimir Putin may be planning if Western countries don't agree to security proposals Moscow has presented, with reports of Russian citizens being alerted of the threat of possible nuclear war.
Russia last week submitted a list of guarantees it wants in order to ease tensions in Europe and potentially avoid an invasion of Ukraine. The proposals include banning Ukraine from joining NATO and for NATO countries not to carry out military exercises in non-NATO parts of eastern Europe.
Russia claims it feels threatened by NATO's advance eastwards and the possibility of NATO missiles in Ukraine. Moscow has positioned tens of thousands of troops close to the border with Ukraine and while it denies it is planning an invasion, the West fears otherwise.
It was announced on Thursday that Russian and US negotiators would enter discussions in January about the security guarantees.
But it comes against a backdrop of escalating rhetoric in recent weeks. Putin on Wednesday warned Russia would take military action against our "Western colleagues" if they kept up their "aggressive line".
The White House says it has no aggressive intent when it comes to Russia, with Western nations instead closely monitoring Russia's behaviour at the Ukrainian border to avoid a repeat of its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Speaking to the BBC this week, Dmitry Kiselyov, an outspoken Kremlin propagandist who was picked by Putin to head the Russian state-owned and operated news agency Rossiya Segodnya, said if the West doesn't agree to Moscow's list of proposals, it would "deploy missiles".
"If Ukraine ever joins Nato or if Nato develops military infrastructure there, we will hold a gun to America's head. We have the military capability," he said.
"Russia has the best weapons in the world - hypersonic ones. They'd reach America as fast as US or British weapons could reach Moscow from Ukraine. It would be the Cuban missile crisis all over again, but with a shorter flight time for the missiles."
He said the list of guarantees was a way to avoid Russia deploying its weapons.
"Otherwise, everyone will be turned into radioactive ash."
Kiselyov has made similar threats before. In 2014, during the annexation of Crimea, he said Russia was the only country that could realistically turn "the United States into radioactive ash".
As the Daily Beast reports, Russia citizens are also being warned of the urgency of the situation.
"The level of anxiety has reached its maximum," it quotes a state television host as saying. "We’re 20 days away from the expiration of the ultimatum and the stakes are rising, even though it seems they couldn’t be any higher."
It's also reported that Russia has introduced a new policy allowing for mass graves to be dug by bulldozers. From the start of February, more than 1000 bodies a day will be able to be disposed in these burial grounds. They will be equipped with "devices for the absorption and neutralization of radioactive, hazardous chemicals and biological agents formed during the decomposition of corpses."
It's unclear what the purpose of the new standard is, with Russian newspaper Novye Izvestiya reporting military expert Alexander Goltz as saying those behind it were thinking "in terms of either a global epidemic or a global war" where much of the civilian population would die.
"This is only possible with the use of nuclear weapons."
Garry Kasparov, a Russian chess grandmaster and the current chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, described the Russian government's creation of the mass grave standard as one of the "signposts on the way to apocalypse".
Without any evidence, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoygu on Wednesday said US mercenaries were assisting Ukrainian forces to prepare for hostilities in eastern Europe and had delivered a chemical component to them.
Dr Evelyn Farkas, a former US deputy assistant Secretary of Defence for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia, tweeted afterwards saying the Kremlin "often telegraphs their next move by accusing their opponent of planning such a move".