Putin threatens to provide weapons to attack West over Ukraine strikes inside Russia

June 6, 2024
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has unleashed a slew of new threats, suggesting he could provide arms to countries to hit Western targets and rattling his nuclear saber yet again.

Putin’s warning — a response to the decision by the United States and its European allies to allow Ukraine to attack some Russian territory using their weapons — was the latest Kremlin threat against greater support for Kyiv. But the Russian leader also insisted Washington and its partners were wrong to assume he would never use nuclear weapons.

In a briefing with heads of international news agencies at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Wednesday, Putin was asked about last week’s move to loosen restrictions on Kyiv in the wake of Moscow’s new assault on the Kharkiv border region.

“If someone considers it possible to supply such weapons to a combat zone to strike our territory and create problems for us, then why do we not have the right to supply our weapons of the same class to those regions of the world from which the strikes will be carried out on sensitive objects of those countries that do this in relation to Russia,” Putin said. “That is, the answer may be symmetrical. We will think about it.”

“Ultimately, if we see that these countries are being drawn into a war against us, and this is their direct participation in the war against the Russian Federation, then we reserve the right to act in a similar way,” Putin said. “But, in general, this is the path to very serious problems.”

Vladimir Putin  in St. Petersburg
Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.Vladimir Astapkovich / AFP – Getty Images

It was not immediately clear what “regions of the world” he would deliver such missiles to.

On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to name the regions Putin had in mind. The Russian president said what he wanted to say, and delivered a clear message that supplying weapons to strike inside Russia “can’t remain without consequences,” Peskov told reporters in a daily briefing.

Putin warned European NATO states last week that the move to allow Ukraine to strike inside Russia with their weapons was playing with fire and could precipitate a global conflict.

Ukraine’s allies had been reluctant to allow their weapons to be used inside Russia until now out of fear of retaliation by Moscow. But the Kremlin’s new cross-border offensive ramped up the pressure for a shift, with Kyiv feeling it had been left handicapped and increasingly frustrated.

Ukraine signaled earlier this week that it had carried out the first strike inside Russia using Western weapons, seemingly targeting an air defense system in the Belgorod border region. 

Asked what could trigger a nuclear war and how close the world was to this risk, Putin said Russia is often accused of waving a “nuclear baton,” but that it was not him who had raised the question.

But he added that Russia can use “all means at our disposal” in case of a threat to its sovereignty and territorial integrity, in accordance with the country’s nuclear doctrine, a framework laying out the conditions for nuclear weapons use.

“For some reason, the West believes that Russia will never use it,” he said.

“You can’t take this lightly, superficially,” he added.

Putin has been threatening to unleash Russia’s mighty nuclear arsenal since it became clear that Kyiv’s Western allies would not abandon the war-ravaged nation and would supply it with weaponry for the battlefield, ultimately prolonging what Putin thought would be a swift operation.

While Ukraine has been made to wait for new supplies of U.S. weapons, it has managed to slow the Russian advance and bog down the northeastern ground offensive.

Kyiv is now pushing for its allies to further loosen the restrictions on its use of their weapons so that it can hit deeper inside enemy territory. President Joe Biden will meet his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy in France this week as the West marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

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