Russia Lists Justifications to Use Nuclear Weapons as Ukraine War Drags On

A Russian leader on Saturday listed several justifications for the nation to use nuclear weapons as the war in Ukraine continues into its fifth week.

Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president, who now serves as deputy chairman of the country's security council, outlined four ways that Russia could be "entitled to" use its nuclear arsenal—even against a nation that is only using conventional weapons.

"Number one is the situation, when Russia is struck by a nuclear missile. The second case is any use of other nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies," Medvedev said Saturday, according to The Guardian. "The third is an attack on a critical infrastructure that will have paralyzed our nuclear deterrent forces. And the fourth case is when an act of aggression is committed against Russia and its allies, which jeopardized the existence of the country itself, even without the use of nuclear weapons, that is, with the use of conventional weapons."

He then added that there should be no reason to doubt that Russia would be "ready to give a worthy response to any infringement on our country, or on its independence." Meanwhile, on Friday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that maintaining "readiness of strategic nuclear forces" remains a priority for Moscow, The Guardian reported.

The statements prompted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to warn on Saturday that Russia poses a direct threat to the world.

"Russia is deliberating bragging they can destroy with nuclear weapons, not only a certain country, but the entire planet," he said during a video conference at Qatar's Doha Forum.

Russia nuclear weapons
A Russian leader on Saturday gave several justifications for Moscow to use nuclear weapons as the war in Ukraine continues. Above, a man walks in front of a destroyed building after a Russian missile attack in the town of Vasylkiv, near Kyiv, on February 27. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images

Days earlier, Russian press secretary Dmitry Peskov said the country would consider using nuclear forces if it deems the ongoing war to be an "existential threat." The comments came shortly after the country claimed that it had used hypersonic missiles against Ukrainian forces for the first time, which many experts considered to be an escalation of war.

The White House this week responded to Russia's growing threats by assembling a team of national security officials to map out how the U.S. would react if Moscow uses its stockpile of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. The group, which has been dubbed the Tiger Team, is also discussing scenarios in which Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks to extend the war into neighboring NATO countries, the New York Times reported.

Other world leaders have expressed concern that Russia is considering the use of nuclear weapons, including Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who said Saturday that the prospect is "increasingly real," Reuters reported. Japan is the only country that has ever been attacked by nuclear weapons.

Since Russia first began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the United Nations has reported that more than 1,000 civilians have been killed, while over 1,600 have been wounded. However, the U.N. estimates that the actual death toll is significantly higher.

Newsweek contacted Russia's Foreign Ministry for additional comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.