President Zelensky has said he is “sure” that President Putin will escalate the threat of using nuclear weapons against Ukraine this winter in an attempt to weaken the west’s support for his country.

Speaking at the Yalta European Strategy (YES) conference in Kyiv on Friday, the Ukrainian president called on Ukraine’s allies and in particular the US, to stand firm and “get through this time.”

“Putin has one step left,” Zelensky said. “To threaten the world with nuclear weapons.”

Putin has already played the nuclear weapons card to some degree since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began last February, though has always couched their use in defensive terms.

In June, he confirmed the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus but stressed he saw no need for Russia to resort to nuclear weapons for now.

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Kremlin officials have also falsely tried to claim that western-supplied weapon systems like F-16 fighter jets would signify a nuclear threat against Russia.

But Zelensky suggested the overt offensive threat of using nuclear weapons is one of the few options Putin has left, a sign of desperation from Putin because he has already “blown himself up as a person and a politician."

Zelensky added: “He has found a fragile point in the unity of our Western partners – the intimidation and the real fear that Putin may use nuclear weapons.”

He said he is “sure this period is starting” and that the threats will be strongest “in the winter” as Putin seeks to put pressure on the west, in particular the US.

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“Because the States will also be in a fragile time – electoral time,” he said. “President Biden needs to have no doubt that the world is stronger than any weapon. 

“We need to get through this time.”

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