A top Russian leader on Saturday urged the Kremlin to consider deploying low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine after Russian troops retreated from Lyman.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of Chechnya, wrote on Telegram that he believes “more drastic measures should be taken, right up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons.” He added: “It is not necessary to make every decision with an eye on the Western American community … it has already said so and done a lot against us.”
Russian officials confirmed the loss of Lyman, Ukraine, just hours before Kadyrov’s statement. The loss came after days of fighting over the area, considered a logistics hub.
“In connection with the creation of a threat of encirclement, allied troops were withdrawn from the settlement of Krasny Liman to more advantageous lines,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said via Telegram.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also said in a Telegram video that “Lyman is fully cleared” on Saturday, adding: “Thank you to our troops … Glory to Ukraine!”
Britain’s Ministry of Defence described Lyman as operationally important as it commanded a key road crossing over the Siverskyi Donets River, behind which Russia has been attempting to consolidate its defenses.
Kadyrov, the influential ruler of the Caucasus republic of Chechnya, has been a vocal champion of the war in Ukraine, with Chechen forces forming part of the vanguard of the Russian army there. Kadyrov is widely believed to be personally close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appointed him to govern restive Chechnya in 2007.
Following the start of the Ukraine-Russia conflict on Feb. 24, Chechen forces were seen being sent to Ukraine to fight.
In his post, Kadyrov described Colonel-General Alexander Lapin, commander of the Russian forces fighting at Lyman, as a “mediocrity,” and suggested that he should be demoted to private and stripped of his medals. “Due to a lack of elementary military logistics, today we have abandoned several settlements and a large piece of territory,” he said.
About a week ago, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also suggested that nuclear weapons could be used to defend Russian territory days after Putin said last month that he would partially mobilize Russia’s reserve forces. In that speech, Putin also suggested Moscow would use all weapons in its arsenal.
“This is not a bluff,” Putin said during his speech. “And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them.”
Last weekend, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC News that the United States would respond if nukes were deployed in the conflict. He didn’t elaborate on how.
“The United States will respond decisively,” Sullivan said in late September. “Now, in private channels, we have spelled out in greater detail exactly what that would mean, but we want to be able to have the credibility of speaking directly to senior leadership in Russia and laying out for them what the consequences would be without getting into a rhetorical tit for tat publicly.”