Russia told the UN on Tuesday that it could end up using nuclear weapons in response to “direct attack” by Western countries.
Speaking at the month-long nuclear non-proliferation conference, Russian diplomat Alexander Trofimov said speculation that Russia has threatened to use its nuclear arsenal against Ukraine is “completely baseless, detached from reality and unacceptable”. .
The envoy said Russia would only use nuclear weapons “in response to weapons of mass destruction or an attack with conventional weapons that threatened the existence of the Russian state.”
“Neither of these two hypothetical scenarios is relevant to the situation in Ukraine,” he said, but blamed NATO countries for a “harsh hybrid confrontation” against Russia that now “balances perilously on the brink of open military conflict.”
“Such a move could trigger one of two emergency scenarios outlined in our doctrine,” Mr Trofimov added. “Obviously we support preventing this, but if Western countries try to test our resolve, Russia will not back down.”
The diplomat also accused the US of “direct involvement” in the Ukraine war, which Russia calls a “military operation”.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden said on Monday he was ready to pursue a new nuclear weapons deal with Russia and urged Moscow to “act in good faith”.
Putin in turn said the world was “heading towards destruction” and said there would be “no winners in a nuclear war”.
Both Mr Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin had issued written statements ahead of a month-long UN conference to revise the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The conference was supposed to take place in 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic.
On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the conference was taking place “at a time of nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War”.
“Humanity is only one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” the UN chief warned.
He also said “nuclear-tinged” crises are flaring up, citing the Middle East, North Korea and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.