Russia ready to use nuclear weapons if threatened, Putin tells state media


President Vladimir Putin said that Russia is ready to use nuclear weapons if there is a threat to Russian statehood, sovereignty or independence, but said he hoped that the U.S. would refrain from actions that could trigger a nuclear conflict.

Putin’s statement was another blunt warning to the West ahead of a presidential vote this week in which he’s all but certain to win another six-year term.

In an interview with Russian state television released early Wednesday, Putin described U.S. President Joe Biden as a veteran politician who fully understands possible dangers of escalation, and said that he doesn’t think that the world is heading to a nuclear war.

At the same time, he said that Russia’s nuclear forces are in full readiness and “from the military-technical viewpoint, we’re prepared.”

Putin said that Moscow is ready to use nuclear weapons in case of a threat to “the existence of the Russian state, our sovereignty and independence.”

The Russian leader has repeatedly talked about his readiness to use nuclear weapons since launching the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

A man walks past a military recruitment poster in Russian.
A man walks past a Russian armed forces recruitment ad in the centre of Moscow, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press)

The most recent such threat came in his state-of-the-nation address last month, when he warned the West that deepening its involvement in the fighting in Ukraine would risk a nuclear war.

Asked in the interview if he has ever considered using battlefield nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Putin responded that there has been no need for that.

He also voiced confidence that Moscow will achieve its goals in Ukraine and held the door open for talks, emphasizing that any deal would require firm guarantees from the West.

WATCH | Zelenskyy says more than 30,000 Ukrainians soldiers have died in war with Russia: 

Ukraine reveals the human cost of two years of war

As Kyiv marks two years since Russia’s invasion, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has revealed 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died fighting. He also hinted at a planned offensive while urging allies for more support.

The Biden administration has said it has no plans to send troops to Ukraine, but has stressed the need to approve a stalled security aid bill that would ensure Ukrainian troops got the weapons they need to continue the war, which is now in its third year.

The White House did not immediately respond on Wednesday to a request for comment on Putin’s remarks, but it has said in the past it has seen no sign that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons, despite what it calls Putin’s “nuclear sabre-rattling.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior Ukrainian presidential official, told Reuters in a statement he viewed Putin’s nuclear warning as propaganda designed to intimidate the West.

“Realizing that things are going the wrong way, Putin continues to use classic nuclear rhetoric. With the old Soviet hope, ‘Be scared and retreat!'” said Podolyak, who believes such talk shows Putin is afraid of losing the war.

The Ukraine war has triggered the deepest crisis in Moscow’s relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Putin has often warned of the risks of nuclear war, but says he has never felt the need to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Putin sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February 2022, triggering full-scale war after eight years of conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces on one side and pro-Russian Ukrainians and Russian proxies on the other.

Western leaders have promised to defeat Russia in Ukraine, but after two years of war, Russian forces control a little under one-fifth of Ukrainian territory.

Putin assured of election win

Putin said a second day of heavy drone attacks from Ukraine on Wednesday was an attempt to disrupt his country’s presidential election this week.

Kyiv has stepped up its attacks on Russian oil refineries and energy facilities in recent months.

One day after seriously damaging Lukoil’s NORSI refinery in Nizhny Novgorod, Ukrainian drone attacks hit refineries in the Rostov and Ryazan regions, Russian officials said.

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