The world must act now to stop Russia nuclear threat in the Ukraine war, says Zelensky, Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, says that Russian leaders have started to “prepare their society” for the use of nuclear weapons, but he doesn’t think Russia is ready to do so.
In an interview with the BBC, President Zelensky denied that he had called for attacks on Russia. He said that a previous statement had been misinterpreted.
“You must use preventive kicks,” he said, meaning sanctions, “not attacks.”
In recent weeks, the Ukrainian army has used a successful counter-offensive to take back large areas of land. This has forced Russian troops to leave positions they had held for a long time. President Vladimir Putin has brought four partially occupied parts of Ukraine into Russia. Kyiv says this is Moscow’s response to its losses.
Many people think that the annexations are illegal, which has made people worry that the seven-month war could get worse. President Putin and other top Russian officials have said that nuclear weapons, possibly smaller, tactical weapons, could be used to defend these areas. However, Western officials say there is no evidence that Moscow is ready to do this.
President Zelensky spoke in English at the president’s office in Kyiv. He said, “They start to get their society ready. That’s a very bad idea. They are not ready to do it or use it. But they start to talk to each other. They aren’t sure if they’ll use it or not. I think it’s risky to talk about it at all.”
Then, through a translator, he said in Ukrainian, “What we see is that the people in power in Russia like life, so I don’t think the risk of using nuclear weapons is as high as some experts say. They know that once they use it, there’s no going back, not only for their country’s history but also for themselves as people.”
But during an online event on Thursday, he denied calling for attacks on Russia, saying that the Ukrainian word he used was misunderstood.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the first comment “an appeal to start yet another world war.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that it showed that Russia was right to start its operation in Ukraine.
“After that translation,” President Zelensky said, “they [the Russians] did it their way, how it was useful for them, and started to retranslate it in other directions.”
The interview happened just hours after US Vice President Joe Biden said that Russia’s threat to use nuclear weapons had brought the world closer to “Armageddon” than it had been since the Cuban Missile Crisis during the Cold War.
President Zelensky said that something needed to be done right away because Russia’s threats were “a risk for the whole planet.” He said that Moscow had “made a step” by taking over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is Europe’s biggest and which President Putin is trying to make Russian property.
He said that there were about 500 Russian troops at the plant, but that the Ukrainian staff was still running it.
“The world needs to stop what the Russian occupiers are doing right away,” President Zelensky said. “In this case, the world can use the sanctions package and do everything it can to get them out of the nuclear power plant.”
With the help of high-tech weapons from the West, the Ukrainian army has made big steps forward in the east and south. They have even taken back towns and villages in areas that the Kremlin says are now part of Russia.
President Zelensky said that Russian forces were putting up a “good enough fight,” but that Ukraine had received weapons – “I won’t say we have enough now” – and that soldiers were motivated to move forward.
The failures of the Russian military, which are a big embarrassment for President Putin, have led to criticism of the country’s military in ways that aren’t common.
In response to the losses, President Putin called up hundreds of thousands of reservists. This sparked rare anti-war protests in Russia and caused a huge number of men of military age to leave the country.
President Zelensky told Russians, “Fight for your body, your rights, and your soul.” He added, “Those kids who are now being mobilized come with nothing. Not having any guns or armor. They are just being thrown here like bullets… Let them come if they want to be kebabs. But if they are still people and think this is their life, they have to fight.
“Putin is afraid of everything, and it’s not a nuclear attack. He’s afraid of his own people,” he said. He worries about his own people. Because these are the only people who can replace him now. Take his power away. Give it to someone else.”
When asked if he would still be alive if the Ukrainians won the war, Putin said, “I don’t care.”