Vladimir Putin is more likely to pursue all-out nuclear warfare rather than concede defeat to Ukraine, a top Russian state TV editor has said.
Margarita Simonyan, editor of state broadcaster RT and one of the Kremlin's highest-profile media bosses, made the remarks on TV on Wednesday night - declaring that Mr Putin unleashing a nuclear strike is “more probable” than failing its so-called special military operation in Ukraine.
The remarks added to a pattern of escalating rhetoric on both sides as Russia continues to warn the west of “lightning fast” consequences over interfering in its ongoing invasion.
“Either we lose in Ukraine,” Ms Simonyan said, “or the Third World War starts. I think World War Three is more realistic, knowing us, knowing our leader.
“The most incredible outcome, that all this will end with a nuclear strike, seems more probable to me than the other course of events.
“This is to my horror on one hand,” she told a panel of experts, “but on the other hand, it is what it is. We will go to heaven, while they will simply croak... We're all going to die someday.”
Ms Simonyan’s nuclear war reference follows recent comments by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who said the threat of a nuclear conflict must not be underestimated and that the core of any agreement to end the conflict in Ukraine would depend largely on the military situation on the ground.
“This is our key position on which we base everything. The risks now are considerable,” Mr Lavrov said on state TV on Tuesday.
“I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it,” he said, referring to the risk of nuclear war.
Mr Putin, while issuing a warning to western nations over interfering in the war, referenced Russia’s new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Satan.
“We have all the tools for this — ones that no one can brag about. And we won’t brag. We will use them if needed. And I want everyone to know this,” Mr Putin said. “We have already taken all the decisions on this.”
Russian announced last week that it will deploy the Satan II, also known as the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile system by autumn, with the warhead capable target the UK as well as Europe and the US and carrying 1 or more nuclear warheads.
Responding to a question about remarks by British foreign secretary Liz Truss, who said on Wednesday that countries opposed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine must double down on their support, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said supplying heavy weapons to Kyiv posed a threat to the security of the European continent.
“In itself, the tendency to pump weapons, including heavy weapons, to Ukraine and other countries are actions that threaten the security of the continent and provoke instability,” Mr Peskov told reporters.
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