MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday (Dec 7) of a long military intervention in Ukraine but said Moscow would not use nuclear weapons first.
His comments came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said fresh Russian strikes on a market and filling station had killed six people and wounded several more in the frontline region of Donetsk.
With the one-year mark of the conflict approaching, Russian forces have missed most of their key military goals including toppling the Ukrainian government, capturing the Donbas region and annexing four territories.
Putin’s own menacing language, and the battlefield stalemate, have raised fears Russia could resort to its nuclear arsenal to achieve a military breakthrough.
On Wednesday, Putin warned that the threat of nuclear war was growing.
“Such a threat is rising. Why make a secret out of it here?” he said at a meeting of his human rights council.
He added however that Russia would use a nuclear weapon only in response to an enemy strike.
“When we are struck, we strike back,” he said, stressing that Moscow’s strategy was based on “so-called retaliatory strike” policy.
Moscow had expected fighting to last just days before Ukraine’s capitulation, but on Wednesday Putin warned results could be a long time coming.
“As for the long process of (seeing) results of the special military operation, of course, this is a lengthy process,” Putin said.
But he praised the announced annexation of four Ukrainian territories into Russia after Moscow proxies held referendums – denounced in the West as a sham – and announced their integration in September.
“New territories appeared – well, this is still a significant result for Russia and this is a serious issue,” Putin said.
The Russian leader formalised the annexation of the four southern and eastern territories – Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – at a ceremony in the Kremlin in September.