Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “all of the countries of the world” should be concerned that Russia could turn to nuclear weapons as the war in Ukraine nears its third month.
“Not only me — all of the world, all of the countries have to be worried,” Zelensky said. when asked by CNN on Friday if he was worried that Russia could use a tactical nuke. “Because it can be not real information, but it can be true.”
Zelensky said he could see the use of chemical or nuclear weapons because “for them, life of the people is nothing. We should not be afraid, be ready, but that is not a question only for Ukraine,” he said. “[It’s for] all the world. I think so.”
Officials in the US have accused Russia of war crimes in its invasion, which began on Feb. 24. Last week, Amnesty International published a report that detailed accounts of Russian forces “extrajudicially” executing Ukrainian civilians and repeatedly engaging in “unlawful violence,” including in the city of Bucha — where evidence of torture and beheadings has been uncovered in recent weeks.
“Testimonies show that unarmed civilians in Ukraine are being killed in their homes and streets in acts of unspeakable cruelty and shocking brutality,” Agnès Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said in the report, adding, “The intentional killing of civilians is a human rights violation and a war crime. These deaths must be thoroughly investigated, and those responsible must be prosecuted, including up the chain of command.”
On Thursday, CIA Director William Burns said that “potential desperation” could cause Russian President Vladimir Putin to turn to nuclear weapons but noted he hadn’t seen “a lot of practical evidence.”
“Given the potential desperation of President 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 an event at Georgia Tech. “While we’ve seen some rhetorical posturing on the part of the Kremlin about moving to higher nuclear alert levels, so far we haven’t seen a lot of practical evidence of the kind of deployments or military dispositions that would reinforce that concern. We watch for that very intently.”
NBC News reported last week that the Biden administration is deploying declassified information — even when it is not “rock solid” — in an attempt to “undermine Moscow’s propaganda and prevent Russia from defining how the war is perceived in the world.”
“It doesn’t have to be solid intelligence when we talk about it,” a US official said. “It’s more important to get out ahead of them — Putin specifically — before they do something. It’s preventive. We don’t always want to wait until the intelligence is 100% certain that they are going to do something. We want to get out ahead to stop them.”
On Friday, Russia’s Defense Ministry pledged to launch more strikes against Kyiv following the sinking of its naval flagship, the Moskva, in the Black Sea. Russia also sent a diplomatic note to the Biden administration warning the US against continuing to arm the Ukrainian military or else face “unpredictable consequences for regional and international security.”