Putin says Russia is ready to use nuclear weapons if its sovereignty is threatened

AP , Wednesday 13 Mar 2024

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

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during an interview with Rossiya Segodnya International Media Group Director General Dmitry Kiselev, in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 12, 2024. AP


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

Putin said that in line with the country's security doctrine, 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 the war with Ukraine in February 2022. 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 Russia will hold onto its gains and would seek firm guarantees from the West.

“It shouldn't be a break for the enemy to rearm but a serious talk involving the guarantees of security for the Russian Federation,” he said.

Putin said that a recent spike in Ukrainian drone attacks deep inside Russia is part of efforts to derail the country's three-day presidential election, which starts Friday and which he is set to win by a landslide, relying on the tight control over Russia's political scene he has established during his 24-year rule.

Russian authorities reported another major attack by Ukrainian drones early Wednesday. The Defense Ministry said air defenses downed 58 drones over six regions. One of the drones hit an oil refinery in the Ryazan region, injuring at least two people and sparking a fire. Another drone was downed as it was approaching a refinery near St. Petersburg.

Ukraine, meanwhile, reported more Russian attacks early Wednesday.

A Russian strike killed two people and injured another five in the town of Myrnohrad in the eastern region of Donetsk, about 30 kilometers (about 20 miles) from the front line, according to Gov. Vadym Filashkin. Local rescuers managed to pull a 13-year-old girl out of the rubble of an apartment building that was hit by a Russian missile.

A five-story building in the northern city of Sumy was struck by a drone launched from Russia overnight and 10 people were rescued from the rubble, including eight who sustained injuries, according to the regional administration.

In President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's hometown in the central Dnipropetrovsk region, the death toll from a Russian missile attack the previous night rose to four, said Gov. Serhii Lysak. He said that 43 people were wounded in Kryvyi Rih, including 12 children, the youngest of them two and eleven-month-old.

“Every day our cities and villages suffer similar attacks. Every day Ukraine loses people because of Russian evil,” Zelenskyy said.

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