Russia Warns Ukraine Against Reclaiming Land

( – The Russian government issued a strong warning to Ukrainian forces not to attempt to recapture disputed territory from Russia, lest they risk the possibility of sparking a nuclear conflict. The Kremlin would “go for the use of nuclear weapons” if Ukrainian forces seized territory considered part of the Russian Federation, according to former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

Medvedev, who also once served as prime minister, currently serves as deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia. The top ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been one of the loudest online supporters of the Kremlin’s so-called special military operation in Ukraine.

Medvedev cited a presidential decree signed in June 2020, which allows the Russian government to use nuclear weapons in situations where the country faces an existential risk. The policy could also lead Russia to launch nuclear weapons in response to a conventional arms attack against key strategic facilities in the country.

Ukraine has remained staunch in its resolve to retake contested territory in the Donbass region, as well as to retake the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. However, given that the Kremlin considers the territories part of the Russian Federation, efforts to retake the land could in theory trigger a nuclear response by Russia.

Medvedev’s warning came amid counteroffensive operations by Ukraine, first launched earlier this summer in a bid to take back lost territory. The operations have been bolstered by Western training and equipment, such as modern artillery systems and armored vehicles.

Ukraine’s military activities have also been spilling over into pre-conflict areas of Russia, including drone attacks on Moscow. Attacks on Russian soil will soon escalate as Ukraine attempts to bring the fight to the Kremlin’s own backyard, according to Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.

The Biden administration has said that they neither encourage nor enable attacks within Russia, although noting that decisions on how to fight the war are ultimately left up to officials in Ukraine. Whether the United States would hold true to such a policy if they got indications of an imminent nuclear response by Russia remains to be seen.

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