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Putin spokesman refuses to rule out use of nuclear weapons if Russia faced an ‘existential threat’

In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, conceded that Russia has yet to achieve any of its military goals in Ukraine and refused to deny that Moscow could resort to the use of nuclear weapons.

Peskov repeatedly refused to rule out that Russia would consider using nuclear weapons against what Moscow saw as an “existential threat.” When asked under what conditions Putin would use Russia’s nuclear capability, Peskov replied, “if it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be.”

When asked what Putin thought he had achieved in Ukraine so far, Peskov answered: “Well, first of all, not yet. He hasn’t achieved yet.”

The spokesman also claimed that the “special military operation” — the Kremlin’s official euphemism for Russia’s invasion in Ukraine — was “going on strictly in accordance with the plans and the purposes that were established beforehand.”

Peskov also repeated Putin’s demands, saying that the “main goals of the operation” are to “get rid of the military potential of Ukraine,” to ensure Ukraine is a “neutral country,” to get rid of “nationalist battalions,” for Ukraine to accept that Crimea — annexed by Russia in 2014 — is part of Russia and to accept that the breakaway statelets of Luhansk and Donetsk “are already independent states.”

The Kremlin spokesperson also discussed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who today was sentenced by a Moscow court to nine more years in a maximum-security jail.

When asked about Navalny’s sentence, Peskov said “Navalny is a prisoner…he’s had his first sentence. Now he’s got his second one…he’s blamed for fraud.”

“No one is afraid of him,” he added.

Key quotes from the interview:

Peskov on whether Putin has achieved his aims in Ukraine:

“Well, first of all, not yet. He hasn’t achieved yet.”

Peskov on the “special military operation”:

“It is going on strictly in accordance with the plans and with purposes that were established beforehand.”

Peskov on the how long the Kremlin thought its operation would last:

“Of course, no one would think from the very beginning about a couple of days. It’s a serious operation with serious purposes.”

Peskov on Russia’s aims in Ukraine:

“Those main goals of the operation, it’s to get rid of the military potential of Ukraine. And, actually, this is why our military are targeting only military goals and military objects on the territory of Ukraine, not civil ones. Russian military are not hitting civil aims, civil targets. Number two is to ensure that Ukraine changes from anti-Russian center to a neutral country. And, in this sense, let’s remember that, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, actually, the neutral status was fixed in a declaration of independence of the country. Number three, to get rid of the nationalist battalions and nationalist regiments who are now actually, who are now opposing Russian troops, who are now trying to cover themselves under the shield of civilians, thus paving a way for civil casualties.”

Peskov on Crimea:

“To ensure that Ukraine acknowledges, acknowledges the fact that Crimea is also an untakable part of Russia, and that People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk are already independent states, that Ukraine actually has lost them after the coup that happened in 2014.”

Peskov on Russia’s goal in Mariupol:

“The strategic goal is to clear up the Mariupol from nationalistic regiments who are there, and in a heavily covered environment, and so — and, by the way, they’re simply not letting people out from the city, from the town. And this is a problem, because now we’re receiving lots of refugees coming from there. And they simply tell us — they’re eyewitnesses. They simply tell us that they were used like a shield. They were used under heavy bombardment. And then those nationalists, they were — they were killing people who would want to leave the city. And now the main goal is to get rid of those bad guys there.”

Peskov on civilian targets:

“They understand, because it was declared that, if you don’t — if you don’t aim our — target our military, if you’re not trying to kill them, no one is going to hurt you. We will hurt, but we will hurt those nationalistic Nazis. We will hurt Nazis, not ordinary people and civil people. It is forbidden to target civil people for our military. So, and then, partly, partly, they are in cooperation with our guys. So, you are simply mistaken.”

Peskov on occupation:

“Occupation is not among the aims of the operation that were stated.”

Peskov on Putin’s anger at Ukraine wanting to join NATO:

“He’s not angry with Ukrainians. And no one here in Russia is angry with Ukrainians. He’s angry with the — those people in Ukraine who want to be part of NATO and who want to deploy nuclear — American nuclear missiles on their territory. And he is angry with those people in Ukraine who forbids people to speak Russian in their country, including those Russians who are living in Ukraine for ages. He is angry with those people in Ukraine who carries symbols of Nazis on the streets of Kyiv and Lviv. And he’s crazy with the — he’s angry with the Ukrainians and those people in Ukraine who would want to — who would want to speak with the world, with Minsk negotiations group, years and years, without implementing any obligations.

Peskov on whether Russia would use nuclear weapons:

“We have a concept of domestic security, and, well, it’s public. You can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used. So, if it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be used, in accordance with our concept.”

Peskov on Russian chemical weapons:

“When it comes to biological and chemical weapons, we don’t have these weapons anymore. In the year of 2017, if I’m not mistaken, it was destroyed completely, in accordance with international agreements.”

Peskov on Alexey Navalny:

“Well, Navalny — Navalny is a prisoner. He’s a prisoner. He had his first sentence. Now he’s got his second one. And he’s blamed — and it is proven by the prosecutor’s office that he’s blamed for fraud. So, it’s purely economical crime. He was collecting money by his foundation from citizens, regular citizens of Russia, and also from abroad, and he was spending part of that money for his personal purposes. This is fraud in our country. And he was supposed to be punished. And no one is afraid of him. It’s — if people is a criminal, he should be in prison. This is the same thing that is happening in the United States and in European countries.”

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