In a rare BBC interview, Russian Ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin said “I don’t” think tactical nukes will be used in the war with Ukraine – and also chillingly claimed evidence of Russian war crimes was ‘fabricated’
Vladimir Putin will only use tactical nuclear weapons if the “existence of the [Russian] state is endangered”, his Ambassador to the UK claimed today.
Andrei Kelin used a rare BBC interview to claim “I don’t” think tactical nukes will be used in the conflict with Ukraine.
Russia ’s President Putin has repeatedly hinted at the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal, with the UK warning he would be “outgunned and outnumbered” in response.
In February he ordered Russia’s nuclear weapons to be put on high alert. He warned last month he would mount a “lightning-fast” retaliation if the west intervened in Ukraine, warning “we have all the tools” and “we will use them if necessary”.
According to the BBC Russia is thought to have about 2,000 tactical nukes, which can be used short-range or fired as shells on the battlefield.
But Mr Kelin claimed: “Tactical nuclear weapon, in accordance with Russian military doctrine, is not used in conflicts like that at all.
Asked if he could rule them out he replied: “We have very strict provision on the issues of the use of tactical nuclear weapon and it is mainly when the existence of the state is endangered. It has nothing to do with the current operation.”
Told that Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine claiming exactly that – that the Russian state was under threat – he replied: “We will deal with it with conventional operation, limited conventional operation.”
Mr Kelin’s claims will raise eyebrows, however, because he also claimed evidence of Russian war crimes in Bucha were a “fabrication”.
The United Nations condemned Russia after images from the town near Kyiv showed hundreds of dead people, some with bullet wounds and their hands tied behind their backs and others burned or in mass graves.
Yet Mr Kelin claimed: “It is a fabrication, it is used just to interrupt negotiations.”
Chillingly he added: “Everything is clean and calm, the town is in a normal state, nothing is happening, no bodies are on the street.”
Diplomatic relations between Mr Kelin and UK authorities are at rock bottom, with Foreign Secretary saying Russia had “repeatedly lied” after a meeting with him on the outbreak of the war.
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Last month Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said “I don’t think [Putin] will” use nuclear weapons.
Mr Wallace told LBC Radio: “I don’t feel rattled by it. Because we have strong Armed Forces and a nuclear deterrent and we’re part of a Nato partnership of 30 nations who outgun him, outnumber him and have potentially all the capabilities at our disposal.
“I don’t fear him. I think we should be very grateful in this country that we have a nuclear deterrent, I think that is a really important part of his calculations.”
Ukraine’s UN envoy has also said the West would act “very rapidly and very harshly” if Vladimir Putin used nuclear weapons.
Sergiy Kyslytsya, the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said last month: “I think the probability of using tactical nuclear weapons is higher than other types of nuclear weapons.
“Some people hope that not everyone around him is crazy as he is and even if he orders to use tactical nuclear weapons, they may be sabotaged by the chain of command. It’s very difficult to say.
“But if it happens, the retaliation by the West, I understand, will be very rapid and very harsh.”