Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that Russia has begun to prepare its people for the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine.
“They begin to prepare their society. That’s very dangerous,” Zelensky said.
“They are not ready to do it, to use it. But they begin to communicate. They don’t know whether they’ll use or not use it. I think it’s dangerous to even speak about it,” he said.
The Ukrainian leader denied claims that he had called for preemptive nuclear strikes against Russia earlier this week, saying that a remark he made was mistranslated to imply that he would support such action.
Zelensky had called for “preventive strikes, preventive action” in an address to the Australian Lowy Institute on Thursday, adding that “waiting for the nuclear strikes first” was an unwise move.
However, he clarified to the BBC that the preventive measures to which he was referring included nonviolent moves such as additional sanctions against Russia.
“You must use preventive kicks, not attacks,” Zelensky said.
After the Ukrainian president’s remarks to the Lowy Institute, Russian figures condemned what they saw as Zelensky’s call for violence.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the comment “an appeal to start another world war.”
Zelensky said that this characterization was an example of Russian attempts to “retranslate” his words into “other directions.”
He continued to urge Western allies of Ukraine to implement stricter sanctions that might play a part in driving Russia back.
“The world can stop urgently the actions of Russian occupiers,” Zelensky said.
“The world can implement the sanction package in such cases and do everything to make them leave the nuclear power plant,” he said.
Russian troops are currently stationed in Zaporizhzhia, the home of a large nuclear power plant where frequent shelling has garnered international concern for disaster.
“What we see is that Russia’s people in power like life and thus I think the risk of using nuclear weapons is not that definite as some experts say, because they understand that there is no turning back after using it, not only the history of their country, but themselves as personalities,” Zelensky said.
When asked if Russian President Vladimir Putin could survive the war if Ukraine was victorious, Zelensky responded, “I don’t care.”
“He’s afraid of his people,” Zelensky said of Putin.
“Because only those people are capable of replacing him nowadays. Take away his power. Give it to someone else,” he said.