Moscow officials have begun preparing citizens for the possible use of nuclear weapons in the seized areas of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
“They are starting to prepare their society. That’s very dangerous,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to use “all means at our disposal” to defend what he considers his country’s territory, including the four territories of Ukraine annexed last week.
The Ukrainian leader said: “They are not ready to do it, to use it. But they start to communicate. They don’t know if they will use it or not. I think it’s dangerous to even talk about it.”
In an interview with the BBC, President Zelensky denied he had pushed for strikes in Russia and claimed a previous comment by him had been mistranslated.
“You have to use preemptive kicks,” he said, calling for preemptive sanctions, “no strikes.”
Speaking of defending Russia, he also mentioned the use of US nuclear weapons against Japan at the end of World War II.
Putin and Russian officials have suggested that nuclear weapons – potentially smaller, tactical weapons – could be used, although Western officials say there is no evidence that Moscow is prepared to do so.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov labeled Mr Zelensky’s remark about preventive action as “a call to start another world war”.
‘After that translation,’ said Mr. Zelensky, ‘they will… [the Russians] their way, how it is useful to them, and began to retranslate it in other directions.”
He added: “We are not terrorists. We don’t fight in any other area.
“Even our attitude of our society towards the Russians after this invasion, after all these eight years of war, eight years of bloody tragedy – even after, our attitude towards them, towards society, we are not ready to kill people like Russians do. to do. ”
Zelensky said action is needed now as the Russian threats were “a risk to the entire planet”.
He urged the world to impose sanctions to allow Putin’s troops to leave the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.
And he also urged the Russians to “fight for your body, rights and soul”, saying: “These mobilized children now, they come without machine guns, armored jackets, they are just cannon fodder…. If they don’t want to be kebab…they have to fight [for their lives].
“The only thing Putin fears is not a nuclear attack. He is afraid for his society, for his people.
“Because only these people can replace him, strip him of his power and give it to someone else.”
A week ago, the Kremlin held a lavish celebration to mark the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, claiming they were returning to “the motherland”.