Russia Would Use Nuclear Weapons Amid 'Existential' Threat: Putin Spokesman

Russia would use nuclear weapons if it feels threatened, a Kremlin official said Tuesday.

Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov was asked on CNN whether the idea of nuclear warfare was still on the table during the war with Ukraine. Peskov said that only an "existential" threat would be enough to justify the use of nuclear warfare.

"Well, we have a concept of domestic security, and it's public," Peskov said. "You can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used. So if it is an existential threat, a threat for our country, then it can be used in accordance with our concept."

Peskov's statement came shortly after Russia claimed that it had used hypersonic missiles for the first time in combat against Ukrainian forces. While it could not be independently confirmed, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said Kinzhal hypersonic missiles were used, a move that could signal an escalation in the conflict.

"The Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse of missiles and aviation ammunition of Ukrainian troops in the village of Delyatyn, Ivano-Frankivsk region," Konashenkov said, according to the Russian state-owned RIA news agency.

While the potential use of hypersonic and nuclear missiles could spark fear of worldwide escalation, there is a chance that a cease-fire can still happen soon. According to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, there are enough solutions on the negotiation table that Russia and Ukraine could agree to. If so, a cease-fire could be called.

"There is enough on the table to cease hostilities now," he said during a press briefing on Tuesday, "and seriously negotiate now."

But he also said that it was more than likely that the conflict will only worsen before it gets better. Because of that, there could be more escalations, such as the official introduction of hypersonic or even nuclear missiles, before a compromise is reached.

"Even if Mariupol falls, Ukraine cannot be conquered city by city, street by street, house by house," Guterres said. "This war is unwinnable. Sooner or later, it will have to move from the battlefield to the peace table."

Newsweek reached out to the U.S. Department of Defense for comment but did not received a responses in time for publication.

Update 3/22/22, 4:05 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information.

Destroyed Building
Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said that nuclear warfare would be used by Russia only if it senses an "existential threat." Above, a man walks in front of a destroyed building after a Russian non-nuclear missile attack in the town of Vasylkiv, near Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 27, 2022. Photo by Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images