Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday said Russian President Vladimir Putin might not be bluffing in his latest threats of using nuclear weapons.
“Look, maybe yesterday it was bluff,” Zelensky said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” during an interview with moderator Margaret Brennan.
“Now, it could be a reality,” Zelensky continued. “Let’s look, what is a contemporary use of nuclear weapons or nuclear blackmail? He targeted and occupied our nuclear power plant and the city of Enerhodar.”
After facing steep territorial losses from a Ukrainian counteroffensive, Putin in a nationwide address last Wednesday called up to 300,000 reservists to aid Russia, also threatening to use the country’s nuclear weapons.
“This is not a bluff,” Putin said. “And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them.”
When asked by Brennan if Europe can be stable if Putin remains in power, Zelensky said “no.”
“They started threatening us with nuclear weapons,” Zelensky said on Sunday. “Will the world depend on one country or one person? The world has to make a decision. We have made our decision. We will not depend on one person, who is not a citizen of our country.”
The Kremlin is also orchestrating referendums in four occupied regions to create a pretext for their annexation.
“Those people who don’t come to referendum, you know, Russians can turn off their electricity and won’t give them an opportunity to live a normal human life,” Zelensky said on CBS. “They force people, they throw them in prisons. They force them to come to these pseudo-referenda.”
Zelensky also called Putin’s government “terrorists,” noting Russian shelling near Ukrainian nuclear plants as well as mass graves uncovered in recent days.
“He knows that he’s losing the war,” Zelensky said. “In the battlefield, Ukraine has seized the initiative. He cannot explain to his society why, and he is looking for answers to these questions.”
Although he couldn’t confirm exact numbers, Zelensky said “thousands” of children have been forced to go into Russia.
Zelensky characterized recent Russian aggression as amounting to genocide, referencing evidence of torture.
“These are horrible elements of genocide of the Ukrainian population, the tortures that I’ve mentioned,” Zelensky told Brennan. “Unfortunately, we have not de-occupied the full territory of Ukraine that has been occupied by Russia since Feb. 24. So a lot of these tortures and other events are still ahead of us.”