Russian state media are saying nuclear war appears to be “a given” and “everyone will be destroyed” if the West “pushes us into a corner”.
One propagandist even suggested Western countries are the nuclear aggressors, when in reality it has only been Vladimir Putin ramping up nuclear rhetoric since the onset of the Ukraine war.
Another warned “taboos” associated with nuclear attacks “could be lifted in certain circumstances” by Russia.
The exchanges among commentators on Russian state TV were captured and translated by Julia Davis, a Russian media analyst.
There was palpable frustration in the Russian media that many in the West misunderstood what Putin said—he was threatening the West, not Ukraine, with nuclear strikes. And so, droves of propagandists have been sent out to tell the West: push us into a corner and everybody dies. pic.twitter.com/quXcMZd7SE
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) September 23, 2022
Davis said there is currently “palpable frustration in the Russian media that many in the West misunderstood what Putin said - he was threatening the West, not Ukraine, with nuclear strikes. And so, droves of propagandists have been sent out to tell the West: push us into a corner and everybody dies.”
She was referring to Putin’s address to the nation on Wednesday, in which he pledged to use “all means” at his disposal to protect Russia’s territory.
This comes amid its ailing and so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine, which has gone catastrophically wrong for Putin this month.
In comments translated by Davis, one commentator, Igor Korotchenko, said in front of a big screen backdrop of missile launches: “The West has to understand: if certain weapons exist, taboos and limitations on using them could be lifted in certain circumstances.”
Watch: Russia's nuclear talk is 'totally unacceptable' - UN secretary-general
In an impassioned broadside against the West, another propagandist, Olga Skabeeva, suggested Russia is the victim of Western aggression: “We will not allow the destruction of our country. If you’re trying to destroy us, you will be destroyed along with us.
“What should we do to avoid the nuclear war, or is it already a given? It certainly seems that way. If they don’t stop it will become a reality."
Skabeeva, who said earlier this week Moscow should have bombed the UK during the Queen's state funeral, added: "Push us into a corner, everyone will be destroyed. Is that what they’re trying to achieve?
"Putin said it so succinctly, so clearly. We aren’t threatening war… we don’t want a nuclear winter or nuclear war. But if you declare that we will be destroyed, we will have to destroy you.”
Putin first propagated the spectre of nuclear war shortly after he launched the invasion of Ukraine in late February, putting Russia's nuclear forces on "special" alert following the West's so-called "unfriendly" response in the form of sanctions.
Following his comments on Wednesday, one leading expert said the likelihood of nuclear war remains low.
However, Nigel Gould-Davies, senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, added: “The probability that Russia would use nuclear weapons has always been low, but it is higher than it was because there are fewer alternatives. That does not mean it’s likely because it’s not costless.”
Read more: How the Ukraine war went catastrophically wrong for Putin in 10 days (from 16 September)
On Thursday, UK defence minister James Heappey dismissed Putin’s threat as “nuclear sabre-rattling… designed to try and put a wedge amongst the cohesion of the Western alliance”.
However, former defence minister Liam Fox warned Putin may not be sabre-rattling: “We have miscalculated with Putin before. We can’t afford to miscalculate again. He is a tyrant with a tyrant’s behaviour.”
Fellow backbench Tory MP Bob Seely also urged: “We have to assume that he may well use them so that we can plan. That is the purpose of assuming use, so we can plan.
“To say he is bluffing means that we don’t have a plan, and we will again, as we have been doing since 2007, be playing catch-up with a disastrous situation with a fascistic Russian state.”