‘Putin Could Use Nuclear Weapons’: Ukraine’s Zelensky Warns All Countries to be Prepared

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday warned that “all of the countries of the world” should be prepared for the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use tactical nuclear weapons in his war on Ukraine.

Zelensky told CNN that Putin could turn to either nuclear or chemical weapons because he does not value the lives of the people of Ukraine. “Not only me — all of the world, all of the countries have to be worried because it can be not real information, but it can be truth,” Zelensky said, speaking in English.

“Chemical weapons, they should do it, they could do it, for them the life of the people, nothing. That’s why,” Zelensky said. “We should think not be afraid, not be afraid but be ready. But that is not a question for Ukraine, not only for Ukraine but for all the world, I think.”

Zelensky’s comments come days after one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies warned NATO that if Sweden and Finland joined the U.S.-led military alliance then Russia would deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in a European exclave.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said that should Sweden and Finland join NATO then Russia would have to strengthen its land, naval and air forces in the Baltic Sea.

Medvedev also explicitly raised the nuclear threat by saying that there could be no more talk of a “nuclear free” Baltic – where Russia has its Kaliningrad exclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.

“There can be no more talk of any nuclear–free status for the Baltic – the balance must be restored,” said Medvedev, who was Russian president from 2008 to 2012.

Russia has the world’s biggest arsenal of nuclear warheads and along with China and the United States is one of the global leaders in hypersonic missile technology.

Lithuania said Russia’s threats were nothing new and that Moscow had deployed nuclear weapons to Kaliningrad long before the war in Ukraine. NATO did not immediately respond to Russia’s warning.

Still, the possible accession of Finland and Sweden into NATO – founded in 1949 to provide Western security against the Soviet Union – would be one of the biggest strategic consequences of the war in Ukraine.

In March, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had told CNN that Russia’s security policy dictates that the country would only use nuclear weapons if its very existence were threatened.

The comment, nearly four weeks after Russia sent its forces into Ukraine, had come amid Western concern that the conflict there could escalate into a nuclear war.

“We have a concept of domestic security and it’s public, you can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used. So if it is an existential threat for our country, then it (the nuclear arsenal) can be used in accordance with our concept,” he said.

In February, Putin had ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be put on high alert. In line with the order, Russia’s defence ministry said on Feb. 28 that its nuclear missile forces and Northern and Pacific fleets had been placed on enhanced combat duty.

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