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Medvedev asserts Russia’s ‘right’ to use nukes to defend its territory

Former Russian president claims Ukraine’s allies would not risk ‘nuclear apocalypse’ by responding in kind; Washington has warned of ‘catastrophic consequences’

Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman and the head of the United Russia party Dmitry Medvedev chairs a meeting on saving businesses and jobs in foreign companies via video link at Gorki state residence, outside Moscow, Russia, on March 16, 2022. (Yekaterina Shtukina, Sputnik, Government Pool Photo via AP)
Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman and the head of the United Russia party Dmitry Medvedev chairs a meeting on saving businesses and jobs in foreign companies via video link at Gorki state residence, outside Moscow, Russia, on March 16, 2022. (Yekaterina Shtukina, Sputnik, Government Pool Photo via AP)

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev asserted on Tuesday that Moscow is entitled to use nuclear weapons in order to defend its territory as the country seeks to annex conquered areas of Ukraine.

Medvedev, who serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, wrote on social media that the Kremlin would use its “most fearsome weapon” against Ukraine if “the threat to Russia exceeds the established danger limit.”

“I want to remind you — the deaf who hear only themselves: Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons if necessary,” Medvedev said, adding that the warning was  “not a bluff.”

According to Russia’s nuclear doctrine, Moscow can use the bomb when conventional weapons threaten “the very existence of the state” — a principle that could be applied to dangers faced by occupied territory incorporated via referendums.

Medvedev’s remarks follow similar comments he made on Thursday, in which he said “any Russian weapons, including strategic nuclear weapons,” could be used to defend its territory.

The threats come as referendums on joining the federation in four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine — Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia —  wrapped up on Tuesday. The votes are widely seen by the West as a sham orchestrated by Moscow to justify a possible annexation of the territory.

Election commission members with mobile ballot boxes leave the embassy of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), the eastern Ukrainian breakaway region, in Moscow on September 23, 2022, as Moscow-held regions of Ukraine vote in annexation referendums that Kyiv and its allies say are illegal and illegitimate. (Alexander NEMENOV / AFP)

The Kremlin has resorted to increasingly desperate measures in the war, such as the country’s first military mobilization since World War II after Ukraine’s army pulled off a successful counterattack in the occupied Kharkiv region earlier this month. Ukraine’s battlefield successes are partly owed to a growing supply of advanced armaments from its allies in the West.

Medvedev expressed doubt that a “nuclear apocalypse” would result if Russia decided to use the bomb, claiming that Western countries would not respond drastically if Moscow was to take such action.

“The supply of modern weapons is just a business for Western countries based on hatred of us. No more. Overseas and European demagogues are not going to die in a nuclear apocalypse. Therefore, they will swallow the use of any weapon in the current conflict,” Medvedev predicted.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a call-up of 300,000 military reservists in Russia, in a sign that the seven-month-long war in Ukraine was not going as planned. In what appeared to be a veiled reference to his nuclear capabilities, the Russian president warned he was not bluffing and that he would use any means to protect his territory.

On Sunday, United States National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned Russia would face “catastrophic consequences” if it decided to use its nuclear option and that Washington had privately explained to Moscow the exact nature of its response in such a case.

Last week, US President Joe Biden warned that if  Putin uses nuclear or other non-conventional weapons against Ukraine the US response will be “consequential,” also without giving explicit details.

Putin and his allies have repeatedly flaunted its nuclear capability since the beginning of the invasion on February 24. Shortly after the beginning of the war, the Russian president announced he was putting his nuclear forces on high alert.

Russia possesses the largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world, according to the SIPRI peace research institute in Stockholm, which puts the figure at 6,255.

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