Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday denied Moscow will employ nuclear weapons in Ukraine, coming after the head of the CIA proclaimed earlier this month that such a tactic might be considered.
Speaking to an Indian news outlet, Lavrov was asked about the possibility of nuclear weapons being used, which would mark a significant escalation in the nearly two-month-long conflict.
Russia and the United States both issued statements last year in which both parties agreed that “there must be no nuclear war, don’t even think about it,” Lavrov told India Today TV. He added that Russia is committed to avoiding a nuclear conflict.
Another top Kremlin official, spokesman Dmitry Peskov, also told PBS on March 29 “no one is thinking about using—about even the idea of using a nuclear weapon.”
But last week, CIA Director William Burns told lawmakers that there is a possibility Russia may start to tap into its vast arsenal of nuclear weapons.
“Given the potential desperation of [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” Burns said at a congressional hearing, adding there has been “rhetorical posturing” from the Kremlin since the war started.
However, Burns ultimately downplayed the notion and said U.S. intelligence officials “so far … haven’t seen a lot of practical evidence of the kind of deployments or military dispositions that would reinforce that concern.”
Despite Burns’ comment that Russia likely won’t use nukes, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared on CNN on Sunday and said the world “wouldn’t wait for the moment when Russia decides to use nuclear weapons” and “must prepare for that.” Zelenskyy then called for “anti-radiation medicine” and bomb shelters.
Early on in the invasion, in late February, Putin said at a televised news conference that he would place his country’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert. The United States, however, did not change its nuclear posture.
Recently, Russia warned that it could move some of its nuclear weapons to the Baltic Sea region if Finland or Sweden, which are European Union members, decide to join NATO.
Also on Tuesday, Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, told Reuters that Russians seized the city of Kreminna.
“Kreminna is under the control of the ‘orcs,'” he said, referring to a term Ukrainians have used for Russians during the conflict. “They have entered the city.”
“Our defenders had to withdraw. They have entrenched themselves in new positions and continue to fight the Russian army,” he said.