Russian State Duma Head Joins Officials Warning Of Nuclear Retaliation In Ukraine

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Vyacheslav Volodin

The head of Russia’s State Duma has said that the promised deliveries of additional weapons to Kyiv by Western countries could heighten the war in Ukraine to a new level that could result in a “global catastrophe.”

Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on his Telegram channel on January 22 that “if Washington and NATO countries supply weapons that will be used to strike civilian cities and attempt to seize our territories…this will lead to retaliatory measures using more powerful weapons.”

The comments by the head of Russia’s lower house of parliament were broadly taken to mean nuclear weapons, and he has now joined other high-ranking Russian officials who have recently threatened a significant escalation of the unprovoked war the Kremlin launched against Ukraine 11 months ago.

The comments also come after representatives of 54 countries gathered last week in Germany to coordinate additional military aid for Ukraine.

The members of the Ukraine Contact Group on January 20 announced a new package of arms deliveries — including air-defense systems, missiles, and mechanized armor– aimed at helping Ukraine succeed in an expected counteroffensive to push Russian forces out of Ukrainian territory.

In September, Russia claimed to have annexed four Ukrainian territories — the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as the southern Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions — following what were widely considered to be sham referendums.

The move to annex the Ukrainian territories seven months into Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine was condemned by the United Nations, and has only been recognized by Russian allies Syria and North Korea.

In 2014, Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula after Russian forces occupied the territory, and backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions fighting against Kyiv. Ukraine has vowed to recapture all of its territory occupied by Russian forces and says that relinquishing territory to Russia is nonnegotiable in any future peace talks.

Volodin put the onus on Washington and Brussels to prevent an escalation of the war in Ukraine, in which Russian forces have been condemned internationally for alleged war crimes and striking civilian targets and energy infrastructure in an attempt to lessen Ukrainians’ resolve during winter.

“Members of [U.S] Congress, deputies of the Bundestag, the National Assembly of France, and other European parliaments must realize their responsibility to humanity,” Volodin wrote. “With their decisions, Washington and Brussels are leading the world to a terrible war: to a completely different military action than today.”

Volodin also described purported arguments by nuclear powers that they have not used weapons of mass destruction in local conflicts as “untenable,” saying “these states did not face a situation where there was a threat to the security of their citizens and the territorial integrity of the country.”

The Kremlin has portrayed its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which it says has evolved into a proxy war with the United States and European states, as necessary to eliminate an existential threat to Russia. The suggestion that NATO or other Western countries pose such a threat has been roundly dismissed by Western capitals.

On January 19, former President Dmitry Medvedev, warned NATO that the defeat of Russia in Ukraine could trigger a nuclear war.

“A nuclear power losing in a conventional war can provoke the outbreak of a nuclear war,” Medvedev, a hawkish ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, wrote on Telegram. “Nuclear powers have not lost major conflicts on which their fate depends.”

The same day, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said that Russia would retaliate if Western weapons were used to target Russian-occupied Crimea, saying “it is simply impossible to defeat Russia.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, meanwhile, said ahead of the meeting of Ukrainian donor countries in Germany that the prospect of additional arms deliveries “will mean bringing the conflict to a whole new level, which, of course, will not bode well from the point of view of global and pan-European security.”

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