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Nuclear War a ‘Real Threat,’ Says Russia Lawmaker as He Urges Ceasefire

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats to the West over his war in Ukraine are “real,” according to Grigory Yavlinsky, a Russian opposition politician and founder of Moscow’s last liberal party.

speaking to Newsweek from Moscow, Yavlinsky, 70, the founder of the Yabloko party and a fierce Putin critic who is calling for a ceasefire in the war, addressed the Russian leader’s nuclear rhetoric throughout the course of the conflict.

In September, Putin ordered Russia’s first mobilization since World War II, saying in a televised address to the nation that he’d be prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory.

“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will, without doubt, use all available means to protect Russia and our people—this is not a bluff,” Putin said at the time.

And last month, during his state-of-the-nation address to Russia’s National Assembly, Putin announced that Russia will stop observing the New START treaty, the last remaining nuclear arms control agreement it shared with the United States. The treaty limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads that countries can deploy.

“I think that [Putin’s] nuclear threat is a real threat,” Yavlinsky told Newsweekechoing Putin’s remarks that the warnings are “not a bluff.”

“It’s a real threat. That kind of weapon is such a serious thing…this is not [just] words, this is a real factor, which you have to take into consideration in the current situation. That’s it,” he said.

Yavlinsky ran against Putin in presidential elections twice and has voiced his opposition to Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine since the conflict began on February 24, 2022. He has described the war, for his nation, as “akin to a self-imposed nuclear strike. “

Yabloko is a social-liberal party that has deputies in five regional parliaments: Moscow, St. Petersburg, the Pskov region, Karelia and Kostroma.

The politician has urged for a ceasefire in the conflict, telling Newsweek that one must happen “before thousands and thousands of people are killed.”

Yavlinsky said his belief that Putin’s nuclear warnings are real is one of the main reasons he is calling for an immediate ceasefire. His remarks come as fears grow that a future attempt by Ukraine to recapture Crimea would be a red line for Russia and that Putin may use his country’s nuclear capabilities to defend the territory.

Putin illegally annexed the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. Last month, a Ukrainian official said that his country is preparing “assault brigades” to take back its occupied territories, including Crimea.

Alexander Formanchuk, the chairman of Crimea’s Civic Chamber, told state-run news agency RIA Novosti on January 31 that he believes a global nuclear war will “immediately” break out should any attempt be made to return Crimea to Ukrainian control.

Meanwhile, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a US-based think tank, assessed on February 28 that Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war are part of an “information operation” and “extraordinarily unlikely” to come to fruition, citing testimony from US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl.

“ISW has assessed that Russian invocations of nuclear threats and nuclear doctrine are part of an information operation meant to discourage Ukraine and the West but do not represent any material Russian intent to employ nuclear weapons,” the ISW report said.

Boris Bondarev, a former Russian diplomat who resigned publicly in May 2022 over the invasion of Ukraine, previously told Newsweek that he believes Putin’s nuclear threats are a bluff.

“Today [Putin’s] bluffing and we know that he has bluffed about nuclear threats. Ukrainians recovered some parts of their territory, and there was no nuclear retaliation,” he said in a phone interview from Switzerland.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats to the West over his war in Ukraine are “real,” according to Grigory Yavlinsky, a Russian opposition politician and founder of Moscow’s last liberal party.

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