Putin: Russia can't ignore Ukraine's potential attempt to gain nuclear weapons
MOSCOW. March 5 (Interfax) - Russia cannot ignore Ukraine's intention to gain nuclear status, as it could be helped from "across the ocean," after which NATO would become Russia's foe, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
"Now there's been talk about [Ukraine] gaining nuclear status; that is, acquiring nuclear weapons. We can't just pass such things over. Especially considering that we know how the so-called West behaves toward Russia," Putin said at a meeting with female employees of Russian airlines on Saturday.
Ukraine has retained nuclear competencies since Soviet era, Putin said. "As concerns the enrichment of nuclear materials, they can organize this work. They also have missile competencies [...] and they'd develop them and make it, and they'd be helped to do that from across the ocean, who would then say that they won't recognize this nuclear status, that they did it themselves, then put those systems under control, and from that second, from that very second, Russia's fate would be absolutely different," he said.
"Then it's our strategic foe, and they wouldn't even need to have intercontinental ballistic missiles, they'd keep us in their nuclear sights right here, and that's it," Putin said.
"How can we just pass that over? This is an absolutely real threat, this is not some farfetched nonsense," he said.
"There has also been increasingly more active talk about Ukraine's admission to NATO. Do you understand what this could have led to or still can? If it's a NATO country, then, in line with the treaty on that organization's establishment, all the other members of the alliance have to support that country in case of a military conflict," he said.
"They're conducting military operations in Donbas, and they'd also creep into Crimea. And then we'd have to go to war with the entire NATO organization. What is that? The consequences are clear, aren't they? I think they're clear to everyone," he said.
Up to 14,000 people have been killed in Donbas since 2014, which the West prefers not to notice, he said.
"You've seen for yourselves how stray dogs in different parts of our country attack and injure people, and there have even been deadly incidents. And then [...] we see those animals poisoned, shot and killed. Listen, but the people in Donbas are not stray dogs. From 13,000 to 14,000 people have been killed over these years, [including] over 500 children killed or maimed. But what is especially intolerable is that this so-called civilized West prefers not to notice this. All these years," Putin said.