Putin says he currently sees no threat to Russia that would justify the use of nuclear weapons

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — President Vladimir Putin said Friday that he currently sees no threat to Russian sovereignty that would justify the use of nuclear weapons, but warned again that Moscow could send weapons to countries or groups to attack Western targets.

Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic ForumPutin said the use of nuclear weapons is only possible in “exceptional cases” and that he does not believe “such a case has occurred.” The Russian leader has repeatedly raised the specter of a nuclear attack since sending troops to Ukraine in 2022.

He has Friday reiterated a warning made days earlier that Moscow “reserves the right” to arm Western adversaries in response to some NATO allies allowing Ukraine to use their weapons to attack targets in Russia.

“If they supply weapons to the combat zone and call for the use of these weapons against our territory, why don't we have the right to do the same?” Putin asked.

“But I am not ready to say that we will do that tomorrow,” Putin added, suggesting this could affect global stability.

He did not specify where such weapons might be sent. The US has said that Russia has turned to North Korea and Iran to expand its stockpile of relatively simple weapons, but Moscow could tap its stockpile of high-tech missiles to share with the West's adversaries if Putin decides to make good on his threat.

The United States and Germany Ukraine recently gave permission to strike some targets on Russian territory with the long-range weapons they supply to Kiev.

On Wednesday, a Western official and a US senator said Ukraine used US weapons to invade Russia under newly approved guidance of President Joe Biden allowing American weapons to be used for defense Kharkov, the second largest city in Ukraine. The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly on the sensitive matter, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Putin also said he sees no need for a new round of mobilization to strengthen Russian forces in Ukraine because, he said, “people voluntarily come to the front lines to defend the motherland.”

Russia mobilized 300,000 reservists in the fall of 2022 amid a series of military setbacks in Ukraine, an unpopular move that prompted hundreds of thousands to flee the country to avoid being drafted.

Putin made his comments during a question-and-answer session with a pro-Kremlin moderator at the forum, which has been used by Russia for decades as a showcase for touting the country's development and attracting investors.

Earlier in a speech, he said the Russian economy is growing despite international sanctions and that Moscow is increasingly pursuing economic ties with countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Putin said that despite the crisis, Russia “remains one of the most important participants in world trade.” drastic sanctionsimposed for sending troops into Ukraine, cutting off much of Russia's trade with Western Europe, the US and its allies.

The main driver of Russian economic growth is the fighting – now as important for the Kremlin economically as politically.

The Russians find a few imported basic products, and most of them Global brands have disappeared – or have been reincarnated as Russian equivalents. But other than that, not much has changed economically for most people, and that's huge state expenditure on military equipment and large payments to volunteer soldiers that provide a strong boost to the economy.

___

Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed.

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