Zelensky aide attempts to walk back call for ‘preemptive strike’
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s call for a preemptive NATO strike against Russia should not be interpreted as a request to attack the country, his press secretary has insisted.
“Colleagues, you have gone a bit too far with your nuclear hysterics and hear ‘nuclear strikes’ where there are none,” Sergey Nikoforov wrote on Facebook on Thursday, responding to widespread alarm over the president’s words.
The press secretary pledged that Ukraine will never resort to nuclear threats, calling it something only the “terrorist state Russia” would do.
Moscow has denied that its senior officials were threatening anybody when they described the country’s official nuclear posture, in the context of warning NATO members against attacks on Russia.
Hours earlier, Zelensky told the Australian Lowy Institute that NATO should carry out preemptive strikes against Russia so that it “knows what to expect” in the event that it uses atomic weapons.
Such an attack would “eliminate the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons,” the Ukrainian leader claimed. He urged the US and its allies to make a show of force, recalling how he appealed to other nations for preemptive measures against Russia before Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in late February.
“I once again appeal to the international community, as it was before February 24: preemptive strikes so that they [Russians] know what will happen to them if they use it, and not the other way around,” he said.
His press secretary also noted that before the hostilities started, “the only measures we talked about were preemptive sanctions”.
Russian officials have accused Zelensky of trying to provoke a global nuclear war. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described him as “a monster, whose hands can destroy the planet,” after being pumped with Western weapons.
The Russian military doctrine allows the use of nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict, if Moscow believes that the existence of the country is under threat. Russian officials have repeatedly warned against escalating the crisis in Ukraine, stating that it could spiral out of control and result in a global nuclear exchange.