Dmitry Medvedev – a former president of Russia – gave the chilling warning in the wake of the Putin’s TV rant in which he threatened the West with nuclear weapons.
Dmitry Medvedev is a close ally of Vladimir Putin[/caption]
A Russian nuclear capable Iskander missile being fired in Ukraine[/caption]
Referendums are taking place in parts of Ukraine that Moscow’s forces seized after its February invasion, and back in 2014, on uniting with Russia.
The votes in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, as well as part of Mykolaiv province, are widely seen as a sham and are expected to produce the result Putin wants.
If they join Russia they will be entitled to protection from Russian nuclear weapons, said Medvedev.
“Any Russian weapons, including strategic nuclear weapons and weapons based on new principles, could be used for such protection,” he said, possibly referring to hypersonic missiles.
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Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said “there is no going back” when it comes to the referendums.
“The Donbas republics and other territories will be accepted into Russia,” he said.
Known as Putin’s “yes man”, 56-year-old Medvedev was previously seen as more moderate than the Russian leader, although he has taken an increasingly hard line in recent years.
Since the war began to turn against Putin, fears have been raised he could order the use of tactical nuclear weapons, which are designed for use on the battlefield rather than destroying cities.
While smaller in explosive power than strategic nuclear weapons, they are nevertheless capable of inflicting devastating losses on an enemy.
Battlefield nuclear weapons are generally carried in bombs, artillery shells and smaller missiles.
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Ukraine’s top general recently warned that a “direct threat” exists Putin could order their use in a bid to turn the tide of the war.
General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said such an order could then take us to the brink of World War 3.
And Nato’s former deputy secretary general, Rose Gottemoeller, said Putin could order a “nuclear demonstration strike”.
That would take the form of “either a single strike over the Black Sea or a strike at a Ukrainian military facility”.
Earlier this week Putin fired off a terrifying nuke warning to Britain and the West as he forcibly drafted 300,000 reservists into his disastrous war in Ukraine.
Analysts say he calculates the West will blink at his nuke threat — and will not back a Ukrainian attack to reclaim the “liberated territories” he has stolen.
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“Our country has various means of defence, and in some components more advanced than those of Nato countries,” Putin ranted.
“When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all the means at our disposal to defend Russia and our people. This is not a bluff.”