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Russia denies planning to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The photo, released by the Russian Defense Ministry, shows Russia's Yars intercontinental ballistic missile being launched during exercises by the country's strategic nuclear forces at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia, on October 26, 2022. (Via Reuters)

Russia has rejected claims that it is planning to use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, tacitly acknowledging that such a scenario would trigger nuclear war, which it says "should never be unleashed."

During a United Nations plenary meeting on a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Wednesday, Alexander Shevchenko, a member of the Russian delegation to the UN General Assembly, refuted claims that Moscow had threatened to use small atomic warheads in the ex-Soviet republic.

"In response to today's entirely unfounded accusations that Russia is allegedly threatening the use of nuclear weapons during the conduct of a special military operation in Ukraine, we would like to once again underscore that Russia's doctrine in this area is purely defensive in nature and does not allow any extended explanation," he said, referring to the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

"Russia is firmly committed to the principle that in a nuclear war, there can be no winner and it should never be unleashed," Shevchenko said.

Western officials say Russia may use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine. They have taken recent statements by Russian officials that Russia will use its entire arsenal to defend its territory as threats to use such force.

On Tuesday, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that if Russia carried out its "horrific" threats of a nuclear strike against its enemies, the US would use the full force of its military power in response, an implicit threat of the use of nuclear force.

"They (the Russians) deny that they would do such a thing but we know that Russia is capable of lies. We take their threats seriously," she said, adding, "We have messaged to them both privately and directly that should they take such a step, they will be held accountable."

During the Wednesday session at the UN, Ukraine's UN envoy Anatolii Zlenko said that Russia's military action at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant contradicted Moscow's own professed standards.

Olaf Skoog, head of the European Union's delegation to the UN, also said that Russia's actions continued to pose serious and direct threats to Ukrainian nuclear facilities, calling on Moscow to withdraw from all nuclear facilities within Ukraine's borders.

The Russian envoy said that the Ukrainian and EU representatives "continue to try to hinder the objective of a constructive discussion and politicizes the discussion."

Russia has previously ruled out the use of nuclear weapons in the course of the war in Ukraine, too.

In early August, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned against the consequences of nuclear war. "We proceed from the fact that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and it should never be unleashed, and we stand for equal and indivisible security for all members of the world community," he said.

But, during an event to officially declare four annexed Ukrainian regions parts of Russia, Putin said Russia would use "all our forces and means at our disposal" to defend "our land."

"Kyiv authorities have to respect the will of these people," he said back then, referring to the people of the four Ukrainian regions. "We will protect our land using all our forces and means at our disposal, and will do everything to ensure people's security. This is the great liberating mission of our people."

The Ukrainian government has said it is determined to take all occupied Ukrainian territory back.

Russia started what it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine on February 24 with the declared aim of "de-Nazifying" the country. Since then, the United States and its European allies have imposed waves of economic sanctions against Moscow while supplying large consignments of heavy weaponry to Kiev over Russian objections.

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