Lavrov says Russia will not hit Ukraine with nukes

File photo. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint press conference with his UAE counterpart (not pictured) following their meeting in Moscow, Russia, 17 March 2022. [EPA-EFE/EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA / POOL]

Russia will only use conventional weapons in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in response to a question about the possible use of nuclear arms in the war.

He commented during an interview Tuesday (19 April) with India Today television, despite not being directly responsible for any military decision-making.

Western intelligence officials have warned that the Kremlin might turn to tactical, chemical or nuclear weapons from its arsenal if it continues to fail to meet its objectives in its invasion of Ukraine or as a result of a perceived slight against President Vladimir Putin.

Western public opinion is increasingly sensitive to the threat of nuclear war, perceived as the end of human civilisation. Conversely, Russia’s interest appears to exploit those fears to stop the supply of Western weapons to Ukraine and levy other demands.

However, Lavrov’s statement should be taken with caution. A Russian attack with tactical nuclear weapons could be aimed at a target outside Ukraine. Russian state propagandists have said that Russia could hit NATO member Poland with nuclear weapons.

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the interview, Lavrov said Russia’s “military operation” has entered a new phase and will continue.

He added that the reasons for going to war were “the complacency of most countries after World War II”.

“They violated their promises to the Russian leadership and started moving NATO eastward after the Soviet Union disappeared. They said it’s a defensive alliance and not a threat to Russian security.”

Denying allegations of war crimes committed by the Russian army, Lavrov said, “Our army has only been targeting military infrastructure and not civilians. The Ukrainian army has been using civilians as human shields.”

His statements appear to reflect a narrative in complete contradiction with the findings on the ground.

On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that Russia may use nuclear weapons, in the case of an ‘existential threat’. The Russian military doctrine includes the ‘escalate to de-escalate’ principle of launching a small nuke to regain the initiative in the war.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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