Russian President Vladimir Putin toasts with then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, along with Sergei Surovikin, commander of Russian troops in Syria, after a ceremony of awarding state decorations to servicemen who fought in Syria, at the Kremlin in December 2017. Credit: Kirill Kuryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images
(CNN) — Russia may be forced to use a nuclear weapon if Ukraine’s counteroffensive is successful, senior Russian official Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday in the latest in a series of nuclear threats made during the key ally’s invasion of Moscow. of President Vladimir Putin.
“Imagine if the offensive… together with NATO, were successful and wiped out part of our territory. Then we would have to use nuclear weapons under the stipulation of the Russian Presidential Decree,” said Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia. Russia, in a Telegram post.
“Simply, there would be no other solution,” added the former Russian president. “Our enemies should pray to our fighters not to let the world go down in nuclear flames.”
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Medvedev, who was Russia’s president from 2008 to 2012, has maintained a bellicose tone throughout Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, repeatedly raising the specter of a nuclear conflict.
Last April, he warned of Russian nuclear expansion if Sweden and Finland joined NATO. Helsinki joined the defense alliance later that month, while Stockholm’s path to NATO was cleared earlier this month after Turkey withdrew its objections.
In September, Medvedev claimed that strategic nuclear weapons could be used to defend territories incorporated into Russia from Ukraine.
And in January, as NATO member states discussed further arms shipments to Ukraine, Medvedev claimed that Russia’s defeat in the war could lead to a nuclear conflict.
“The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war can lead to the outbreak of a nuclear war,” Medvedev wrote on Telegram in January. “Nuclear powers do not lose the great conflicts on which their fate depends.”
“This should be obvious to anyone. Even a Western politician who has retained at least some trace of intelligence,” he added.
Medvedev’s remarks this Sunday once again raise the possibility that Russia could lose the war after almost 18 months of attrition, a rare admission by a senior Russian official.
They also came hours after the Russian Defense Ministry accused Kyiv of attacking Moscow with drones. Three drones were intercepted this Sunday, but a commercial complex in the west of the Russian capital was hit, according to the Ministry.
The United States has previously warned Russia against using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, both through direct private communications and public channels, including at the UN General Assembly last year.
Last month, Putin said that Russia had moved a first batch of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, saying they had been placed there for “deterrence.”
Dmitry Medvedev message russia
Dmitri Medvedev, in a 2019 image. (Photo: Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images/FILE)
Speaking at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Putin said that the rest of the tactical nuclear weapons that Russia intends to move to Belarus would be transferred “at the end of the summer or at the end of the year.”
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The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said it had “no reason to doubt” Putin’s claim that there were nuclear weapons in Belarus.
But US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at the time that the United States “has seen no reason to adjust our own nuclear posture and no indication that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.”
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said last month that in the face of aggression, he would show “no hesitation” to use Russian tactical nuclear weapons stationed on Belarusian soil.
But senior DIA officials said they do not believe Lukashenko had any control over the arsenal. It is most likely fully controlled by Russia, the officials said.
Russia has some 4,477 nuclear warheads deployed and in reserve, including some 1,900 tactical nuclear weapons, according to the Federation of American Scientists.