Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said in an interview that Russia would only use nuclear weapons if its very existence were threatened.
Peskov’s comment came as CNN interviewer Christiane Amanpour pushed him on whether he was “convinced or confident” that President Vladimir Putin would not use the nuclear option in the Ukrainian context.
“We have a concept of domestic security, and it’s public. You can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used,” Peskov said on Tuesday.
“So if it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be used in accordance with our concept.”
Putin last month ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be put on high alert.
In line with the order, Russia’s defence ministry said on February 28 that its nuclear missile forces and northern and Pacific fleets had been placed on enhanced combat duty, the Interfax news agency reported.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on March 14 that “the prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility”.
Peskov also told CNN that Russia’s war in Ukraine was “going on strictly in accordance with the plans and the purposes that were established beforehand”.
The comments come after United States President Joe Biden warned that Putin was considering using chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine, as he described Moscow’s tactics as increasingly “brutal”.
Last week Russia said it had launched its Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile that can hit targets anywhere on Earth within an hour.
Putin said in December that Russia was the global leader in hypersonic missiles, whose speed, manoeuvrability and altitude make them difficult to track and intercept.
The Kinzhal missiles are part of an array of weapons unveiled in 2018. Russia first used the hypersonic missile during its military campaign in Syria in 2016.
The war has shaken the post-Cold War global security consensus, imperiled the world supply of key crops, and raised worries it could set off a nuclear accident.
Separately, wildfires broke out near Ukraine’s decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, but the country’s natural resources minister said the flames had been extinguished and radiation was within normal levels. Chernobyl in 1986 was the scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.