Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on Saturday urged Moscow to consider deploying low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine after Russian forces withdrew from the town of Lyman.
In a post shared on Telegram, Kadyrov said he believes “more drastic measures should be taken, up to the declaration of martial law in border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons.”
Kadyrov is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appointed him to rule troubled Chechnya in 2007.
The comments came after Russia lost its Lyman stronghold in eastern Ukraine following a massive Ukrainian offensive.
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Russia has the world’s largest atomic arsenal, including low-yield tactical nuclear weapons designed for use against enemy armies.
Other top Putin allies, including former President Dmitry Medvedev, have floated the idea that Russia might need to use nuclear weapons, but Kadyrov’s suggestion was the most explicit.
Putin said last week that he was not lying when he promised to use “all available means” to defend Russia’s “territorial integrity.” The United States has said it would respond decisively to any use of nuclear weapons and has threatened “catastrophic consequences” if Moscow deploys the weapons.
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Kadyrov has been a vocal supporter of the war against Ukraine, with Chechen forces forming part of the Russian military’s vanguard in the region.
The Chechen leader said in his post that Colonel General Alexander Lapin, commander of the Russian forces fighting in Lyman, was a “mediocrity”. Kadyrov suggested that the commander should be demoted to private and have his medals taken from him.
“Due to the lack of elementary military logistics, today we have abandoned several settlements and a large part of the territory,” Kadyrov said.
Kadyrov said he had warned Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s chief of general staff, about the possibility of a defeat at Lyman two weeks ago, but that Gerasimov had dismissed the idea.
Reuters contributed to this report.