Russia indulged in a spate of nuclear saber-rattling Monday, sparking a stern U.S. response.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also sought to justify possible attacks on weapons shipments supporting Ukraine as it enters the third month of its war to stand off Russian invaders.
Lavrov spoke about nuclear weapons during an interview with state-run media, claiming Russia was doing everything in its power to avoid the threat of a nuclear war. Early in the war, Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s nuclear forces into a heightened state of readiness.
“This is our key position on which we base everything. The risks now are considerable,” Lavrov said, according to Reuters.
“I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it,” he said.
⚡️UK dismisses Lavrov’s nuclear threats as ‘bravado,’ sees no imminent threat of escalation in Ukraine.
Britain’s armed forces minister James Heappey told BBC that the possibility of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons was “vanishingly small.”
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) April 26, 2022
Lavrov said America has been a thorn in the side of efforts to negotiate an end to the conflict.
“The United States has practically ceased all contacts simply because we were obliged to defend Russians in Ukraine,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov said NATO countries have been “pouring oil on the fire” in their support of Ukraine with billions of dollars in aid and weapons, according to The Hill.
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Lavrov said weapons being brought into Ukraine are a legitimate target.
“These weapons will be a legitimate target for Russia’s military acting within the context of the special operation,” Lavrov said, Reuters reported.
“Storage facilities in western Ukraine have been targeted more than once (by Russian forces). How can it be otherwise?” he added. “NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war.”
Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said the threat of nuclear war is Russia’s “last hope to scare the world off supporting Ukraine.”
“Thus the talk of a ‘real’ danger of WWIII. This only means Moscow senses defeat in Ukraine. Therefore, the world must double down on supporting Ukraine so that we prevail and safeguard European and global security,” he tweeted.
Russia loses last hope to scare the world off supporting Ukraine. Thus the talk of a ‘real’ danger of WWIII. This only means Moscow senses defeat in Ukraine. Therefore, the world must double down on supporting Ukraine so that we prevail and safeguard European and global security.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) April 25, 2022
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby labeled Lavrov’s comments “obviously unhelpful, not constructive, and certainly is not indicative of what a responsible [world power] ought to be doing in the public sphere,” according to the Hill.
“A nuclear war cannot be won, and it shouldn’t be fought. There’s no reason for the current conflict in Ukraine to get to that level at all,” he said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called Lavrov’s comments “very dangerous and unhelpful,” according to NBC.