Former Russian president warns of nuclear response if Ukraine counteroffensive is successful

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia would “have to” use nuclear weapons if Ukrainian forces threaten Russian territory in their ongoing counteroffensive, in a message on his social media accounts Monday.

Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons during the war.

“Imagine if the offensive, which is backed by NATO, was a success and they tore off a part of our land, then we would be forced to use a nuclear weapon according to the rules of a decree from the president of Russia,” he said Monday.

“There would simply be no other option. So our enemies should pray for our [warriors’ success]. They are making sure that a global nuclear fire is not ignited,” he added.

Medvedev was apparently referring to Russia’s nuclear weapon use policy, signed by Putin in 2020, that says Moscow may deploy nuclear weapons Russia’s nuclear weapons “when the very existence of the state is put under threat.”

Russia has illegally annexed entire regions of eastern Ukraine amid the war, claiming they are now part of Russia’s homeland. Ukraine has also recently ramped up attacks on Crimea, which Russia has occupied since 2014, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv would increase attacks within Russia.

Medvedev was vague about what land would risk a nuclear response if lost. He has frequently telegraphed his threats of nuclear warfare, often bolstering actions or declarations from Putin, including when the current Russian president last fall said nuclear weapons were “not a bluff.”

Putin has doubled down on his nuclear blackmail in recent months, transferring tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus. The weapons have a smaller yield upon detonation than larger weapons of mass destruction, but they still have devastating capabilities.

Putin has in part justified the transfer of the tactical weapons because the U.S. holds low-yield nuclear bombs in European allied nations.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive is making progress in major advances around the city of Bakhmut in eastern Donetsk and in the southeastern Zaporizhizhia region.

Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar said Monday that Kyiv has liberated about 15 square miles around Bakhmut and more than 77 square miles in the south.

Ukrainian troops are moving toward the cities of Melitopol and Berdyansk in Zaporizhizhia, where they hope to cut off a land bridge from Russia to the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014 but considers its territory.

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