Continued deliveries of arms to Ukraine by its allies in the West will lead to retaliation with “more powerful weapons,” a top official in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime said on Sunday.
Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of Russia’s lower house, the State Duma, threatened Europe and the U.S. with “global catastrophe” over their continued military support to the government in Kyiv, which is trying to continue retaking territory it lost in the Russian invasion.
Volodin directly invoked the use of nuclear weapons in his statement over messaging app Telegram.
“Arguments that the nuclear powers have not previously used weapons of mass destruction in local conflicts are untenable. This is because these states have not faced a situation in which the security of their citizens and the territorial integrity of their countries were threatened,” the Russian official wrote in his social media post.
The threat comes amid arguments over whether Germany will send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion. Kyiv has requested the German-made tanks, which it says it needs to renew its counteroffensive against Moscow’s forces. But Berlin has so far resisted the call from Ukraine and its allies to send the tanks without the U.S. making the first move, over fears of an escalation in the conflict.
Berlin also hasn’t approved deliveries of the tanks from its allies, as Germany gets a final say over any re-exports of the vehicles from countries that have purchased them.
Newly appointed German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius is planning a trip to Ukraine, which could come in the next month, German newspaper Bild, a sister publication of POLITICO in the Axel Springer Group, reported on Sunday, citing an interview. Asked about the Leopard tanks, Pistorius said: “We are in very close dialogue on this issue with our international partners, above all with the U.S.”
In his Telegram post, Russia’s Volodin said: “With their decisions, Washington and Brussels are leading the world to a terrible war … foreign politicians making such decisions need to understand that this could end in a global tragedy that will destroy their countries.”
It’s not the first time that top Russian politicians threaten a nuclear escalation. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has invoked the use of nuclear weapons more than once since the outbreak of the conflict 11 months ago.