Russia can defend new regions with nuclear weapons: Medvedev | Russia-Ukraine war news

A Putin ally said Moscow was defending areas of Ukraine that voted to join Russia as “fake” referendums.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said that all weapons in Moscow’s arsenal, including strategic nuclear weapons, can be used to defend Ukraine’s incorporated territories with Russia.

Medvedev, the vice-chairman of the Russian Security Council, also said on Thursday that the referendums set up by Russia and organized by the separatist authorities will take place in a large number of occupied Ukrainian territories and that “there is no way back”.

“Donbas [Donetsk and Luhansk] republics and other territories will be accepted into Russia,” he said in a Telegram post, referring to breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine’s industrial heartland.

His comments came after President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday that Moscow would use “all available means” to protect Russia’s “territorial integrity” as it moved to mobilize 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine. The thinly veiled nuclear threat drew immediate condemnation among many Western leaders.

Medvedev, who regularly makes aggressive statements about the West and Ukraine, added that the Russian armed forces are significantly strengthening the defense of all territories.

“Russia has announced that not only mobilization capabilities, but all Russian weapons, including strategic nuclear weapons and weapons based on new principles, can be used for such defense,” he said.

Votes to join Russia will take place starting Friday in Russian-held parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia provinces, as well as parts of Mykolaiv province – and are widely expected to produce results overwhelmingly in favor of joining Russia.

Kyiv and its Western allies have rubber-stamped the vote, which will take place under military occupation without external oversight.

If the occupied territories, where the Ukrainian counteroffensive has been gaining momentum in recent weeks, have been officially accepted into the Russian Federation, Moscow is entitled to protection from Russian nuclear weapons under its nuclear doctrine.

Moscow does not fully control any of the four regions it is expected to annex, with the Russian army currently holding only about 60 percent of Donetsk and 66 percent of Zaporizhzhia.