In a speech on Oct. 6, President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that NATO’s goal was to make it impossible for Russia to use nuclear weapons. He made a broad appeal, stating: “I once again appeal to the international community, as it was before February 24: preemptive strikes so that they [Russians] know what will happen to them and not vice versa.”

Top Russian officials, including Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the foreign minister, and Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, charged Zelensky with inciting nuclear war.

Trying to provide reassurance that Ukraine would never advocate the deployment of nuclear weapons, Zelensky’s spokesperson Serhii Nykyforov clarified that the president was in fact referring to precautionary sanctions to be implemented prior to Russia’s full-scale invasion.

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“Colleagues, you have come a little far away with your nuclear hysteria and now you hear nuclear strikes even where that was not said. The president spoke about the period until February 24. Then it was necessary to apply measures to prevent Russia from starting a war. Let me remind you that the only measures that were discussed at that time were preventative sanctions,” Nykyforov stressed.

“Only the terrorist state of Russia allows itself to blackmail the world… and hint in every possible way at the use of nuclear weapons. You will never hear such calls from Ukraine,” he added.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the President’s Office, said that Zelensky didn’t mention anything about a preemptive nuclear strike and that it was just another Russian fake.

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“Another Russian fake. Not a single word from Zelensky about a preemptive nuclear strike on the Russian Federation,” Podolyak said. “Zelensky just reminded listeners of Russian nuclear blackmail and suggested that the world preemptively outline the consequences for Russia and strengthen strikes against the Russian Federation – sanctions and armed assistance.

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For his part, Russian president Vladimir Putin has already threatened the Ukrainian counteroffensive with nuclear weapons.

On Sep. 21, Putin made a veiled nuclear weapons reference, stating: “When its territorial integrity is threatened, Russia will use everything it can – this is not a bluff.”

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