Immediately after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, official Moscow threatened to use nuclear weapons at the highest level as well as through Kremlin propagandists.
The situation worsened even more in September 2022 after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech about seizing four regions of Ukraine, during which he declared that Russia is ready to use all possible means at its disposal to defend the country’s security.
“Our country also has various means of destruction with some components more modern than those of NATO members. When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff,” Putin said.
Fact Investigation Platform summarized the false theses and the evolution of the propaganda narrative about the possible use of nuclear weapons during the 9 months of the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Zelensky’s distorted speech as a pretext for war
In In his February 21, 2022 speech, Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of intending to develop nuclear weapons.
“We are aware that there have been statements that Ukraine intends to create its own nuclear weapons, and these are not simply words. Ukraine does still possess Soviet nuclear technology and capacities of launching such weapons, including aviation, as well as Tochka-U operational-tactical missiles, which are also Soviet projects with a range of more than 100 kilometers,” Putin said, emphasizing that they could not fail to react to that “real danger.”
Already on February 24, in the speech about the decision to launch a “special military operation,” Putin, speculating on his own reserves of nuclear weapons, began to threaten with the risk of their use. “Modern Russia, even after the collapse of the USSR and the loss of a significant part of its potential, is today one of the most powerful nuclear powers in the world and, moreover, has a certain advantage in the field of modern weapons. In this regard, no one should doubt that a direct attack on our country will lead to destruction and terrible consequences for any potential aggressor.”
On March 1, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov further elaborated on the accusations presented by Putin.
“The risks Zelensky’s regime poses today to neighboring countries and international security in general have increased significantly since the authorities based in Kyiv started playing dangerous games related to their plans to acquire nuclear weapons,” Lavrov stated.
Presumably, the cause for these statements of the Russian leader and the foreign minister was the speech of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on February 19 during the Munich Security Conference: its content was distorted by Russian officials.
The speech of the President of Ukraine was made under the unprecedented tension on the borders of Ukraine and the aggregation of Russian troops. At the time, Zelensky, declaring that the established security system in the world was unable to protect Ukraine, criticized the countries that signed the Budapest memorandum for ignoring invitations to consultations by Kyiv.
The Budapest Memorandum was signed in 1994 by Ukraine, Russia, the United States and Great Britain. The countries commit to respect the independence, sovereignty and state borders of Ukraine at the time of signing. The memorandum also reaffirms the commitment of the mentioned countries to “refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine’s territorial integrity or political independence.” In return, Ukraine agreed to abandon its nuclear reserves inherited from the USSR, which were the third largest in the world, and transfer all nuclear warheads to Russia for decommissioning.
“Ukraine has received security guarantees for abandoning the world’s third nuclear capability. We don’t have that weapon. We also have no security. We also do not have part of the territory of our state that is larger in area than Switzerland, the Netherlands or Belgium. And most importantly – we don’t have millions of our citizens. We don’t have all this,” Zelensky stated in Munich.
The president of Ukraine also stated that since 2014, Ukraine has tried three times to convene consultations with the guarantor states of the Budapest Memorandum. Three times without success. “I am initiating consultations in the framework of the Budapest Memorandum. If they do not happen again or their results do not guarantee security for our country, Ukraine will have every right to believe that the Budapest Memorandum is not working and all the package decisions of 1994 are under question.”
In fact, Putin and Lavrov distorted the essence of Zelensky’s speech, interpreting it as a threat to develop nuclear weapons. In reality, however, the President of Ukraine was simply questioning the effectiveness of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.
Boris Johnson’s non-existent statement and threats from Kremlin propagandists
On April 21, almost simultaneously, Russian and Ukrainian websites wrote that the then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared that if Moscow used at least some of the weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine, Great Britain, without consulting NATO, “will reserve the right to strike back on its own.”
The information also became a topic of discussion during the program “60 Minutes” broadcast on “Russia-1,” after which the office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom issued a statement refuting that Johnson had made such a statement. According to it, it was another instance of disinformation by the Kremlin.
“The UK Government is entirely united with its Nato allies in supporting Ukraine against Russia’s illegal invasion,” the statement reads.
Despite the absence of the original statement by Johnson and refutation, Russian state-funded television stations continued to speculate on Johnson’s non-existent statement with threats of nuclear strikes.
In May, Dmitry Kiselyov, the host of the “News of the Week” program on the same TV station, stated that Great Britain is so small that a Russian “Sarmat” missile is enough to destroy the island once and for all.
Kiselov also declared the possibility of using the “Poseidon” system, which would turn Great Britain into a “radioactive desert.” “There is no way to stop this underwater drone. Its warhead is up to 100 megatons. The explosion of this thermonuclear missile off the coast of Britain would raise a giant wave, a tsunami up to 500 meters high. Such a water storm is also a carrier of extremely high doses of radiation… What do you think of such a prospect?”
During her speech on “Rossia-1” in April, RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan also made statements in favor of nuclear strikes. Speaking on Vladimir Solovyov’s program, she stated that nuclear war seems more likely to her than Russia’s defeat in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s counter-offensive and the new theses about nuclear war
In August, 2022, the Ukrainian army launched a counter-offensive and achieved success on the battlefield including in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions.
In response to that, Vladimir Putin declared in September initiating referendums to join the 4 regions of Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhia – to the Russian Federation, as well as starting a partial military mobilization.
In the same speech, the head of the Russian Federation affirmed that they would use all means to protect Russia and the Russian people, and this was not a bluff. In this context of tension, a possible nuclear war became the main topic of the world media.
Zelensky’s statement on preemptive strike on Russia
On October 7, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated during a briefing that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on NATO member states to launch a nuclear attack against Russia.
Fact Investigation Platform revealed that Lavrov’s statement was false. The President of Ukraine spoke about a preemptive strike to rule out a possible nuclear attack by Russia. He did not specify the type of weapon or the nature of the preemptive strike.
The tangle of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant
On October 27, at the conference of the “Valdai” club, Vladimir Putin addressed the situation at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant.
“There are continued talks about what we are doing at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. And what are we doing there? They directly say that we are shooting in the direction of the nuclear power plant. Did they go crazy or what? We control that nuclear power plant, our troops are there,” Putin said, stressing that there is no heavy weaponry in the territory of the nuclear power plant.
Putin noted that they agreed to stationing the IAEA officers at the nuclear power plant, and “they see what is happening with their own eyes.” The Russian president also accused the West of keeping silent about the attacks on the nuclear power plant by the Ukrainian military.
The Zaporizhia nuclear power plant came under the control of the Russian military on March 1. Since then, the parties have blamed each other for keeping the nuclear plant under fire.
On September 1, the IAEA mission visited the nuclear power plant. The mission report stated that all 7 elements of nuclear safety around the nuclear plant were breached. It is also noteworthy that Ukrainian experts continue to work at the nuclear power plant, who, according to the IAEA, work under conditions of psychological and physical tension, which is also risky for the operation of the nuclear power plant.
It is not confirmed whether the Russian side deployed heavy equipment in the territory of the nuclear power plant. However, the reputable The Wall Street Journal reported in July that the Russian military has turned the area of the nuclear power plant into a military base. The BBC, referring to the Ukrainian employee working at the nuclear power plant, wrote that the Russian army has deployed military equipment in and around the nuclear power plant. The IAEA report also noted that there is Russian military equipment in different parts of the nuclear power plant.
Parallels with a nuclear attack on Japan
Putin also highlighted that the only country that used nuclear weapons was the United States, and noted that there was no basis for it. “Was the integrity of the United States was in danger? Of course not: There was no military expediency either. The military machine in Japan was crushed, the resistance was almost zero. Why was it necessary to destroy Japan with a nuclear strike? “
The expediency of using nuclear bombs is still a matter of controversy, and Putin’s statement on the matter is not subject to fact-checking. But the claim that there was zero resistance before the bombs were used in Japan is false. Despite the capitulation of Nazi Germany, Japan continued to resist. In 1945 starting from May 9, Japan was subjected to intense rocket attacks, as a result of which 350-500 thousand Japanese people were killed. In addition, 12,000 people were killed on the American side, 36,000 were wounded, and 34 military ships were sunk following hostilities on the island of Okinawa in the summer of 1945. The Japanese side suffered 100,000 casualties.
This also did not make Japan stop hostilities. On July 26, 1945, the Potsdam Conference issued an ultimatum to that country, demanding unconditional surrender, otherwise the Allies threatened to launch stronger air attacks. After Japan rejected this ultimatum, the United States detonated atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The US used nuclear weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9. On August 15, Japan signed the capitulation treaty.
Therefore, Putin’s claim that there was no resistance in Japan before the atomic bomb was detonated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is false and manipulative.