Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top spokesman delivered a rebuke to the warlord Ramzan Kadyrov on Monday after Kadyrov called on Russia to use a “low-yield nuclear weapon.”
“This is a very emotional moment,” the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters, according to Reuters. “The heads of regions have the right to express their point of view.
“But even in difficult moments, emotions should be kept out of any kind of assessment. So we prefer to stick to balanced, objective assessments.”
Peskov had been asked about remarks made on Saturday by Kadyrov, a loyal but outspoken far-right leader of the Chechnya region.
Kadyrov — along with other powerful Putin allies — said Russia should respond to Ukraine’s retaking of its strategic eastern city of Lyman with “more drastic measures,” according to Reuters’ translation of his statement.
Kadyrov added that those measures should go “right up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons.”
Peskov said Russia’s basis for using any nuclear weapons was set in the country’s law, Reuters reported.
Putin and his allies have directly or indirectly kept the specter of nuclear conflict in international discussion in the past couple of weeks, after the Russian leader on September 21 announced the mobilization of 300,000 reservists to the battlefield in Ukraine.
In that announcement, he said Russia would use “all the means at our disposal” to protect the country — a veiled reference that he said was “not a bluff” and that was soon bolstered by others.
Dmitry Medvedev, a former prime minister, took a mocking tone, saying in late September that NATO wouldn’t dare intervene if the country launched a nuke at Ukraine.
However, Medvedev also outlined the circumstances in which Russian law permits a nuclear launch; Kadyrov’s Saturday statement did not clearly outline such circumstances.
Kadyrov strongly criticized fellow military leaders over their retreat from Lyman, which is considered a major humiliation for Putin.
World leaders and experts are considering whether Russia is likely to use a nuclear weapon or whether it’s a bluff or a tactic to get the West to back down from its support for Ukraine. But they agree the threat should be treated seriously, with both NATO and the US warning Russia that it would face severe consequences if it conducted any nuclear strikes.
Mia Jankowicz is a news reporter at Insider’s London office (where this first appeared). She previously covered Brexit for The New European and has contributed stories to The Guardian, The New Statesman, Politics.co.uk, and Mic.com, as well as several local newspapers.