Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday warned that the world should take seriously and prepare for the possibility that Russia could use nuclear weapons in its attack on Ukraine.
“Not only me — I think all of the world, all the countries, have to be worried, because it can be not real information, but it can be truth,” Zelensky told CNN’s Jake Tapper when asked if he was worried Russian President Vladimir Putin might use a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukraine.
Zelensky also said Moscow could easily use either nuclear or chemical weapons, as Putindoes not value the lives of Ukrainian citizens.
“They could do it, for them the life of the people [means] nothing,” Zelensky said. “We should think, not be afraid, be ready. But that is not a question … only for Ukraine but for all the world, I think so.”
Zelensky’s message is a stark shift from comments he made last month, when he said Putin’s threat to use nuclear force should the West get involved in the war was a “bluff.”
At the time, Putin had recently ordered that his nuclear forces be put on higher alert after Zelensky repeatedly called for NATO to impose a no-fly zone over the Ukraine.
“I think that the threat of nuclear war is a bluff. It’s one thing to be a murderer. It’s another to commit suicide. Every use of nuclear weapons means the end for all sides, not just for the person using them,” Zelensky said in early March.
Zelensky’s new comments also follow those made by CIA Director William Burns on Thursday, when he said that the U.S. cannot “take lightly” the chance that Russia could use nuclear weapons as it grows more desperate in its invasion, now in its 51st day.
“Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” Burns said Thursday following a speech at Georgia Tech.
The world now watches and waits as Kremlin forces — who retreated from much of northern Ukraine after failing to take the capital of Kyiv — are regrouping for a renewed offensive in the Donbas region in the east.