Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Thursday that Moscow had never “intentionally said anything” about using nuclear weapons, but said that as long as the weapons existed, there was always the danger of their use.
And he denied that Russia was planning to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine.
“We never intentionally said anything about the possibility of using nuclear weapons by Russia. We only responded with hints to (nuclear threats from) from Western leaders,”
Putin said, accusing Western governments, including former British Prime Minister Liz Truss, of engaging in “nuclear blackmail” against Russia.
He also accused the West of “forcing the thesis that Russia will use nuclear weapons” to influence neutral countries against Moscow. He stressed that Russia’s military doctrine only allows the use of nuclear weapons for “defense” purposes.
Putin also reiterated Russia’s baseless claims that Ukraine was building a dirty bomb to use on its own territory and blame Moscow for it.
Russia has been accusing Ukraine of planning to use a so-called dirty bomb, which combines conventional explosives like dynamite and radioactive material such as uranium. Kyiv and its Western allies say there is no truth to the accusation and that Moscow could be mounting a false-flag operation.
Ukraine has invited experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit two facilities the Russian government says – without evidence – are involved in a plan to create a dirty bomb.
More background: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the consequences for Russia if it uses a nuclear weapon in its war on Ukraine have been conveyed to Putin.
Blinken also denounced Russia’s latest claim that Ukraine is considering the use of a “dirty bomb” as “another fabrication and something that is also the height of irresponsibility coming from a nuclear power.” Blinken reiterated that the US is tracking the Kremlin’s nuclear saber-rattling “very carefully,” but hasn’t “seen any reason to change our nuclear posture.”
Despite Putin’s rhetoric, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom Andrey Kelin told CNN Wednesday that Russia will not use nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine.
However, actions taken by Moscow in recent weeks – the “dirty bomb” allegations, attacks on civilian infrastructure, looming defeats on the battlefield, and its annual military exercise – have increased concerns, a senior administration official said.
This official told CNN that the potential collapse of parts of Russia’s military in Ukraine could be the factor that could cause Putin to turn to nuclear weapon use. As such, the US is keeping a close eye on the developments in the Kherson region, where it’s not easy for Russian soldiers to retreat.
Russia informed the US of its annual GROM exercise, which includes its strategic nuclear forces, the Pentagon said. The Kremlin said in a statement Wednesday that Putin was leading military training drills involving practice launches of ballistic and cruise missiles.
Despite increased concerns, US officials have not seen evidence of Russian actions that would indicate Moscow is preparing to use nuclear weapons.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood contributed reporting to this post.