Senior Russian national security official Dmitry Medvedev has issued a dire nuclear warning and threat aimed at Ukraine and its Western backers (though certainly not for the first time).
He said in a Sunday Telegram post that Russia could be forced to mount nuclear attack if Ukraine's counteroffensive succeeds. In effect it is to say that if Ukraine "wins", nukes would be deployed. This would happen in the scenario of "part of our land being taken away," he said.
"Just imagine that the offensive… in tandem with NATO, succeeded and ended up with part of our land being taken away. Then we would have to use nuclear weapons by virtue of the stipulations of the Russian Presidential Decree," the former president and now deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council asserted, which is being widely cited in Western press reports.
"There simply wouldn’t be any other solution,” he added. "Our enemies should pray to our fighters that they do not allow the world to go up in nuclear flames.”
It remains a little ambiguous over whether Medvedev was primarily referencing Russian territory proper within its national borders "being taken away", or if this was a reference to the four regions of eastern/southern Ukraine, as well as Crimea, which have been declared absorbed into the Russian Federation as of last year.
Putin and top Russian officials had previously asserted that Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia would now be defended as de facto Russian territory under the law. Medvedev appears to be reasserting that even if this territory comes under 'existential threat' of being taken by Kiev and NATO, the 'nuclear option' would be firmly 'on the table'.
But Medvedev has throughout the conflict been prone to delivering hawkish, even apocalyptic-sounding warnings and statements. For example last January he said "The loss of a nuclear power in a conventional war can provoke the outbreak of a nuclear war."
He added in the Telegram statement, "Nuclear powers do not lose major conflicts on which their fate depends." Such threats are perhaps why Washington has remained hesitant on supplying Ukraine forces with longer-range missiles, also at a moment President Zelensky is actively vowing to 'return' the war to Russia.
Here's what Zelensky threatened on Sunday, as we previewed:
On Sunday, the day following a major drone attack on Moscow's financial district, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has announced that he is ready to "return" war to Russia's own territory, emphasizing that this is "inevitable".
"Today is the 522nd day of the so-called 'Special Military Operation', which the Russian leadership thought would last a couple of weeks," he said in a new video message. "Gradually, the war is returning to the territory of Russia - to its symbolic centers and military bases, and this is an inevitable, natural and absolutely fair process."
He described these increasing attacks Russian territory as an "inevitable, natural and absolutely fair process" of the war between the two nations.
Russia could also be seeking to reassert it's 'red lines' in the face of these increasingly brazen attacks. Inside Ukraine there have been reports that intelligence and military command centers are being hit with Russian missiles at greater regularity.
When F-16s are introduced to Ukraine (possibly by year's end or next), this will represent a whole new alarming level of escalation. Moscow has underscored that the American-NATO fighters are capable of delivering a tactical nuke.