West could spark nuclear war over Ukraine, Russia says at UN

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The conflict in Ukraine does not justify Russia’s use of nuclear weapons, but Moscow could decide to use its nuclear arsenal in response to “direct aggression” by NATO countries over the invasion, Russia said at the United Nations on Tuesday .

At a nuclear non-proliferation conference, Russian diplomat Alexander Trofimov dismissed “completely unfounded, apart from the reality and intolerable speculation that Russia might threaten the use of nuclear weapons, particularly in Ukraine”.

Within days of Russia’s February 24 invasion, Putin put the country’s deterrent forces — including nuclear weapons — on high alert, citing what he called aggressive statements by NATO leaders and Western economic sanctions against Moscow.

Trofimov, a senior diplomat in the non-proliferation and arms control division of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said Moscow would only use nuclear weapons in response to weapons of mass destruction or a conventional weapons attack that threatened the very survival of the Russian state.

“Neither of these two hypothetical scenarios is relevant to the situation in Ukraine,” Trofimov told the UN conference to review the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

However, he accused NATO countries of a “fierce hybrid showdown” against Russia which is now “dangerously teetering on the brink of an open military clash”.

“Such a move could trigger one of two emergency scenarios described in our doctrine,” Trofimov said. “Of course we stand for the prevention of this, but if Western countries put our resolve to the test, Russia will not back down.”

Russia on Tuesday accused the United States of direct involvement in the war in Ukraine.

Moscow said it was responding to comments from a Ukrainian official about how Kiev had used US-made and supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers based on what the official called excellent satellite imagery and real-time information.

(Additional coverage by David Ljunggren; editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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