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Putin says Russia could use nuclear weapons if it is threatened

In this photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, a Russian Iskander missile is seen during drills to train the military for using tactical nuclear weapons at an undisclosed location in Russia.
In this photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, a Russian Iskander missile is seen during drills to train the military for using tactical nuclear weapons at an undisclosed location in Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia could use nuclear weapons if its sovereignty is threatened.

“If somebody’s actions threaten our sovereignty and territorial integrity, we consider it possible to use all means at our disposal,” Putin said, citing what he said is his country’s security policy.

“For some reason, they believe in the West that Russia will never use it,” Putin told a group of international journalists, adding that Russia’s nuclear arsenal is much more powerful that what the U.S. used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan during World War II.

The Russian leader spoke face-to-face at some length on the sidelines of the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Putin also had a warning for the U.S. and Germany.

He said that allowing Ukraine to fire long-range, Western-made weapons into Russia could prompt him to place similar Russian weapons in countries within range of the U.S. or its European allies.

“If they consider it possible to deliver such weapons to the combat zone to launch strikes on our territory and create problems for us, why don’t we have the right to supply weapons of the same type to some regions of the world where they can be used to launch strikes on sensitive facilities of the countries that do it to Russia?" he said, according to The Associated Press.

Germany joined the United States last week in authorizing Ukraine to hit targets on Russian soil along Ukraine’s Kharkiv regional border using long-range weapons it supplied. Putin mentioned U.S. ATACMS as well as British and French missiles.

German tanks arriving in Ukraine surprised many in Russia, according to Putin, who said, “When German tanks first appeared on Ukrainian soil, it already produced such a moral, ethical shock in Russia, because relations toward [Germany] in Russian society had always been very good.”

“Now, if they use missiles to strike facilities on the Russian territory it will completely ruin Russian-German relations,” Putin said.

Asked about the upcoming U.S. election, the Russian leader said he is not concerned about the results.

“To say — I am speaking quite sincerely — that we believe that after the elections something will change toward Russia in American policy, I would not say so. We don't think so. We think that nothing really serious will happen,” Putin said.

Overnight attacks

Ukraine’s military said Wednesday that Russian forces attacked overnight with 22 aerial drones, with officials in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv region reporting damage to homes.

The Ukrainian air force said the country’s air defenses shot down all 22 of the drones, with intercepts taking place over the Mykolaiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, Poltava and Sumy regions.

Vitaliy Kim, the regional governor of Mykolaiv, said on Telegram that falling debris destroyed one home and damaged 10 others. There were no reported injuries.

Filip Pronin, the governor of Poltava, reported on Telegram that the Russian attack injured one person and damaged an industrial facility.

In Dnipropetrovsk, Governor Serhiy Lysak said on Telegram the drone attack damaged five homes, three farm buildings and some power lines.

Russia’s defense ministry said Wednesday it destroyed two Ukrainian drones over the Belgorod region, two drones over the Kursk region and another drone over the Voronezh region. There were no reports of casualties.

Zelenskyy talks

U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy are to meet this week while both leaders are in France, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.

Those talks will be followed by another meeting next week as leaders from the Group of Seven leading industrial nations gather for a summit in Italy.

Sullivan said Biden “will have two substantive engagements with President Zelenskyy,” including talks about the current situation in Ukraine and how the United States can “continue and deepen” its support.

The second meeting will come just ahead of the Ukraine peace conference hosted by Switzerland, which Biden is not attending. The U.S. delegation will include Vice President Kamala Harris and Sullivan.

Sullivan said Ukraine needs more air defenses, and that the United States is working to supply them along with a “continued flow of weaponry.”

U.S. support at this time does not include plans to send U.S. military trainers to Ukraine, Sullivan said.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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