Russia’s Medvedev threatens Ukraine with pre-emptive nuclear strike

Russia will launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike should the West provide Ukraine with nuclear weapons, Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, warned on Friday.

“There are some irreversible rules of war. If it comes to [deliveries of] nuclear weapons [to Ukraine], a pre-emptive strike will have to be carried out,” Medvedev, who was Russian president between 2008 and 2012, said.

Throughout Russia’s full-scale invasion, which began in February 2022, Kyiv has received a trove of weapons and military equipment from its Western allies to assist in its fight against Moscow. These include MiG-29 fighter jets, anti-aircraft systems, tactical drones, rocket systems, howitzers and artillery rounds. There have been no public discussions to provide Ukraine with nuclear weapons.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) and Dmitry Medvedev on December 1, 2011 in Moscow, Russia. Medvedev warned Friday that Russia will launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike should the West provide Ukraine with nuclear weapons.
Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

Russia’s state-run news agency Tass cited Medvedev as saying that it’s possible Ukraine “receives warplanes” and “maybe even nuclear weapons” from its Western allies.

“But it will mean that a missile with a nuclear warhead will come flying to them,” he said.

The U.S., Medvedev said, “operates largely within the field of its pragmatic interests.”

“They do not wage a war, they are making money instead. They are trying to eliminate their centuries-long enemy.”

“As far as Europe is concerned, it is a strange story for me. They keep heating up tensions with their decisions,” Medvedev continued. “Europe has gone mad.”

President Joe Biden last week approved the transfer of F-16s to Ukraine from its allies and U.S. training of Ukrainian pilots. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had long called for his Western allies to provide his military with the advanced fighter jets to assist in the ongoing war against Russia.

Medvedev also weighed in on how long he believes the war could last.

“This conflict will last for a very long time. For decades, probably. This is a new reality,” he said. “Everything always ends in negotiations, and this is inevitable, but as long as these people are in power, the situation for Russia will not change in terms of negotiations.”

Medvedev has issued nuclear threats frequently throughout Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin himself said in a televised address to the nation in September 2022 that he’d be prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory.

He has also suggested this month that Russia has no options left “aside the physical elimination of Zelensky and his cabal.” He made the remarks on his Telegram channel after two drones crashed into the Kremlin in Moscow on May 3. Zelensky denied any involvement, saying his country didn’t possess weapons capable of such strikes.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian and Ukraine foreign ministries for comment via email.

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