Moscow “not threatening anyone” with nuclear weapons

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday that Moscow is not threatening anyone with nuclear weapons and that open confrontation with the United States and NATO is not in Russia’s interest, state news agencies reported.

“We are not threatening anyone with nuclear weapons,” the Interfax agency quoted Ryabkov as saying at a conference on Friday. “The criteria for its use are described in Russian military doctrine.”

President Vladimir Putin this week told the West he was “not bluffing” when he said he would use nuclear weapons if Russia’s territorial integrity was threatened.

Four Russian-controlled regions in Ukraine are holding referendums this weekend on whether or not to join Russia. Putin has said he supports the move, raising the prospect of Russia formally annexing another 15% of Ukraine’s territory.

Russian officials, including ex-president Dmitry Medvedev, said that after the regions are incorporated into Russia, any attack on them by Ukrainian forces will be considered an attack on Russia.

According to Russian nuclear doctrine, this could allow the use of nuclear weapons if Moscow deems it an “existential threat”. Medvedev said it had the ability to use strategic – long-range – nuclear weapons.

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But Ryabkov said Russia was not seeking an “open confrontation” with the United States or NATO’s military alliance and did not want the situation to escalate further.

“We hope that the Biden administration is also aware of the danger of an uncontrolled escalation of the conflict in Ukraine,” he said.

Announcing Russia’s first mobilization since World War II on Wednesday, Putin said Russia was fighting not just against Ukraine, but against all the military assets of the Western countries that support Kiev.

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Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov also said Friday that he wants to believe “that despite all the difficulties Moscow and Washington are not on the verge of collapsing into the abyss of nuclear conflict,” according to RIA Novosti news. . agency reported.

(Reporting by Reuters; editing by Kevin Liffey)

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