A key ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested Moscow could turn to nuclear deterrence if Ukraine tries to retake control of Crimea.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who currently serves as the deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia, said in an interview with a Russian journalist published to Telegram on Saturday that any Ukrainian attacks on Crimea would be met with “retaliation strikes,” with no negotiations to end the conflict, which will hit its first-year anniversary later this month.
His remarks come as Russia struggles to achieve substantial military victories in Ukraine, despite the large size of its military. When Putin launched the invasion on February 24, 2022, he aimed for a quick win, but Ukraine’s stronger-than-expected defense effort, bolstered by Western military aid, blunted the Kremlin’s military gains, allowing Kyiv to retake thousands of square miles in formerly occupied territory last fall.
Now, Ukrainian victories are fueling optimism that its military could retake Crimea, a region Russia illegally annexed in 2014.
An explosion is seen on a bridge in Crimea on October 8, 2022. Inset, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev on Saturday floated nuclear deterrence as a potential response to Ukraine trying to retake control of Crimea, a region annexed by Russia in 2014.
-/AFP via Getty Images; ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images
Just days prior to Medvedev’s remarks, a Ukrainian official said Kyiv is preparing “assault brigades” to take back occupied territories including Crimea. Meanwhile, The New York Times reported in January that the Biden administration is becoming more willing to acknowledge Ukraine may need to strike the Black Sea peninsula.
Amid these indications that Crimea could become a site of combat, Medvedev, interviewed by journalist Nadana Friedrichson, warned that Ukraine launching strikes to reclaim the land would have devastating consequences.
“There will be no negotiations in this case, there will only be retaliation strikes,” he said on Saturday. “The whole of Ukraine, which remained under the rule of Kyiv, will burn.”
Medvedev continued that Russia’s response to strikes on Crimea could be “anything,” and that Moscow has not set any restrictions. He added that the Kremlin is prepared to deploy “all types of weapons,” including nuclear, depending on the “nature of the threat,” pointing to the government’s official policy regarding nuclear deterrence.
“In accordance with our doctrinal documents, including the Fundamentals of Nuclear Deterrence. I can assure you that the answer will be quick, tough and convincing,” Medvedev said.
Ukraine and Russia view Crimea as rightfully part of their own territory. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pledged to oust Russian troops from all of Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, as a condition to end the war. However, Russian officials have said they would not accept any peace deal in which Kyiv restores its control over the region.
Major General Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the defense intelligence of Ukraine, said in an interview last week that Ukraine is aiming to retake Crimea by late summer. Crimea carries strategic importance, as it is home to the key port city of Sevastopol, located on the Black Sea. Meanwhile, Moscow has also used Crimea to launch attacks into Ukraine amid their war.