A top Kremlin official this week ruled out using nuclear force over the conflict in Ukraine.
“No one is thinking about using—about even the idea of using a nuclear weapon,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told PBS on Monday evening.
Last week, Peskov suggested in an interview with CNN that Russia would consider using nuclear weapons if faced an “existential threat.” And former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said earlier this week that Russia “reserves the right to use nuclear weapons if it faces an existential threat, even if the other side has not employed nuclear weapons.”
“Any outcome of the operation, of course, is not a reason for usage of a nuclear weapon,” Peskov also told PBS on Monday. “We have a security concept that very clearly states that only when there is a threat for existence of the state in our country, we can use and we will actually use nuclear weapons to eliminate the threat.”
“Let’s keep these two things separate,” he continued, and said that the “existence of the state and special military operation in Ukraine–they have nothing to do with each other.”
Since the start of the conflict on Feb. 24, there have been fears that a nuclear weapon might be deployed as Russian forces invaded Ukraine. Days after the conflict started, Putin announced that he ordered the country’s nuclear deterrence forces to operate on high alert while the Russian leader on Feb. 24 warned of “consequences you have never seen in history” should another country intervene.
Meanwhile, there have been reports of fighting around two of Ukraine’s nuclear sites. Early on in the war, Russian troops took control of the Chernobyl area, which was the site of the 1986 Soviet nuclear disaster, and shelling was reported at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant several weeks ago.
The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, wrote that he traveled to Ukraine on Tuesday.
“We must act now to help prevent the danger of a nuclear accident,” he wrote.
On Tuesday, Russian officials announced they will “fundamentally” scale back military operations near Ukraine’s capital and a northern city, as talks to end the grinding war brought the outlines of a possible deal into view.
Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said the change on the battlefield was meant to increase trust at the talks after several rounds of negotiations failed to halt what has devolved into a bloody campaign of attrition.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.