Ukraine's top general warns of risk of Russian nuclear strike

Ukraine’s top general warns of risk of Russian nuclear strike

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhnyi waits before a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and other officials in Kyiv, Ukraine October 19, 2021. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/File Photo

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  • Military leader breaks silence in article on war in Ukraine
  • Claims responsibility for rocket attacks on Russian bases in annexed Crimea
  • Expects war with Russia to continue until 2023
  • Ukraine must match Russia’s missile range, general says

KYIV, Sept 7 (Reuters) – In rare public comments, Ukraine’s military chief warned on Wednesday of the threat of Russia using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, which would create the risk of a “limited” nuclear conflict with other powers.

The war in Ukraine that began with the Russian invasion on February 24 is expected to rage into next year, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said in an article co-authored by lawmaker Mykhailo Zabrodskyi and published by the official Ukrinform news agency. .

The article contained by far the most detailed assessment of the Ukrainian commander-in-chief of the war to date, and gave messages very different from those given by senior Ukrainian officials. Read more

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“There is a direct threat of the use, under certain circumstances, of tactical nuclear weapons by the Russian armed forces,” Zaluzhnyi said.

“It is also impossible to completely exclude the possibility of direct involvement of the world’s leading countries in a ‘limited’ nuclear conflict, in which the prospect of a Third World War is already directly visible,” the article said.

Moscow has in the past denied speculation about the potential use of nuclear or chemical weapons.

TURNING TIDE

Ukraine will have to match the striking range of Moscow’s weapons in order to turn the tide of the war, Zaluzhnyi and Zabrodskyi wrote.

“The only path to a cardinal change in the strategic situation is undoubtedly a series of several consecutive, or ideally simultaneous, counterattacks by the Ukrainian Armed Forces during the 2023 campaign,” they said.

The United States has provided the government in Kyiv with sophisticated long-range weapons on the condition that Ukraine will not use them to strike targets inside Russia, according to US officials.

The article contained Ukraine’s first acknowledgment that it was responsible for what the authors said were rocket attacks on Russian airbases in annexed Crimea, including one that damaged the Saky military base last month.

Ukraine has so far refused to publicly acknowledge its involvement, with a senior official speaking on condition of anonymity citing fears of Russian reprisals.

“We are talking about a series of successful rocket attacks against enemy airbases in Crimea, first of all Saky airfield,” the article said, using language that did not specify whether it was unguided rockets or missiles.

Saky’s strike knocked 10 Russian warplanes “out of action” on August 9, according to the report.

Ukraine is not publicly known to have weapons systems in service with sufficient range to strike Saky, which is at least 200 kilometers from the front lines.

NO PEACE THIS YEAR

The tone of the article contrasts with the often optimistic statements of senior Ukrainian officials.

“The duration of the war is already measured in months, and there is every reason to believe that this period will extend beyond 2022,” he said.

Zaluzhnyi and Zabrodskyi acknowledged that Ukraine was positioned “extremely unfavourably” on two eastern frontlines, around the towns of Bakhmut and Izyum.

Foreign-supplied weapons will form the backbone of Ukraine’s defense next year, they said.

“In 2023, the material basis of Ukrainian resistance should remain significant volumes of military aid from our partner countries,” the article said.

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Reporting by Max Hunder; additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Grant McCool

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