Zelensky Warns Russia May Use Nukes After CIA Says Putin Desperate to Win

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN in an interview to air over the weekend that he believes the world should be prepared for Russia to possibly resort to the use of chemical or nuclear weapons, just a day after CIA Director William Burns made a similar statement about Russian President Vladimir Putin's "desperation" to win in Ukraine.

Zelensky reportedly told CNN's Jake Tapper that Putin could and would use such weapons because he does not value the lives of the Ukrainian people.

Russian officials, including Putin, have threatened the use of nuclear weapons under certain circumstances, including if another country intervenes in the "special military operation," the term Russia has used to refer to the invasion of Ukraine, which began in late February.

Burns said in response to a question during an event at Georgia Tech on Thursday that the U.S. remains "very concerned" about the use of nuclear weapons but has not seen evidence indicating that such an attack could take place anytime soon despite consistent threats from Russia of nuclear weapons.

Russia Ukraine Zelensky Putin Nuclear Weapons CIA
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned again in a new interview with CNN that the world should be prepared for Russia to use chemical or nuclear weapons against Ukraine. Above, Zelensky speaks during a press conference with the presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia following their talks in Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 13, 2022. Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images

"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, according to the New York Times. "We don't."

Some officials, including Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, have said Russia is not considering nuclear weapons, which would be used only in response to an "existential threat" to Russia.

"Chemical weapons, they should do it, they could do it, for them the life of the people, nothing. That's why," Zelensky told CNN. "We should think not be afraid, not be afraid, but be ready. But that is not a question for Ukraine, not only for Ukraine, but for all the world, I think."

Late last month, Russian officials outlined the circumstances under which Russia would be prepared to use nuclear weapons, and said one of their priorities is maintaining "readiness of strategic nuclear forces."

Former Russian President and current Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said last month that Russia would use a nuclear weapon in response to one being used against it or one of its allies, or an attack on "critical infrastructure that will have paralyzed our nuclear deterrent forces," or if an attack is committed against Russia that constitutes an existential threat to the country.

Zelensky also called the threats of nuclear attacks a bluff earlier in the conflict, but his new comments to CNN echo other comments he has made that the world should be cautious of Russia's actions.

"Not only me—all of the world, all of the countries have to be worried because it can be not real information, but it can be truth," Zelensky told CNN.

Update 4/15/22, 1:14 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information.