Former Russian president and Vladimir Putin loyalist Dmitry Medvedev has warned that Russia will use nuclear weapons if it believes its territories are under attack.
“Russia is ready to defend the territories associated with it by all means, including strategic nuclear weapons,” Medvedev said, referring to the planned referendum by Russian-installed and separatist authorities on Ukrainian territory.
Medvedev, now Russia’s deputy chairman of the Security Council, said the vote would go ahead and there was “no chance of delay”.
“All citizens of Western organizations and NATO countries in general need to understand that Russia has chosen its own path,” Medvedev said.
His statement came 24 hours after Putin raised the possibility of nuclear war over the conflict in Ukraine, condemned by several world leaders, including US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Liz Truss, at the UN General Assembly in New York.
Putin warned against “nuclear blackmail”, threatening to respond with the power of his own vast arsenal. He said he was not bluffing, using all means at his disposal to defend Russian territory, in what appeared to be a veiled reference to Russia’s nuclear capabilities.
“We are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only those who are currently in the reserves will be recruited, and above all, those who have served in the armed forces and have a certain military specialty and relevant experience,” Putin said.
His speech alarmed many around the world and caused thousands of Russians to flee the country.
Voting in four regions of Ukraine, now controlled by Russia, is set to go ahead over the weekend.
Western countries have said they will not recognize the results of the referendum.