A Ukrainian aid worker said he does not fear a nuclear attack because it would cause “political destruction” for Russia – but said the damage already inflicted by the war is already akin to a nuclear strike.
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West of “nuclear blackmail” on Wednesday and warned “it’s not a bluff” as he vowed to use weapons of mass destruction to protect his country.
Dimko Zhluktenko, an aid worker based in Lviv, western Ukraine, said he does not believe there will be a nuclear strike as the move would have no strategic advantage for Russian forces.
“Even if it were to happen, it wouldn’t have a massive effect,” the 23-year-old told the PA news agency.
“If they do a tactical nuke strike, that will be pure terrorism and that will lead to the absolute destruction of Russia.
“It wouldn’t grant any strategic advantage to Russian forces because they wouldn’t be able to advance to capture new territories.
“And at the same time, politically they would be destroyed because they would most likely get strikes back and face total isolation from other nations.”
Earlier this week, Mr Putin announced a partial military mobilisation, with 300,000 reservists set to be called up as the Kremlin attempts to regain ground in the face of a counter-attack by Ukrainian troops.
Mr Zhluktenko said he believes a nuclear strike on Ukraine would be met with an immediate reprisal from allied countries and Nato forces.
But he said the extent of the damage already inflicted on cities like Mariupol by the Russian military could be compared to that of a nuclear attack.
“My guess is that any escalation would be immediately answered by other allies, such as members of Nato, because it is pure barbarism,” Mr Zhluktenko said.
“Russia has already done a similar level of damage comparable to a tactical nuke when they besieged Mariupol.
“The city is ruined. It’s all rubble and the amount of civilians killed, according to the latest numbers, is over 100,000 people, which is crazy.
“The amount of people killed really is comparable to a nuclear strike, given that Mariupol was such a big city.”
Mr Zhluktenko said the ongoing war has ruined efforts to repair and rebuild infrastructure in Mariupol.
He said the level of damage means the only the way to rebuild the city now would be to “start from scratch”.
“Mariupol is destroyed, every building is damaged and in such a way that they are unable to repair it that quickly,” Mr Zhluktenko said.
“No one is repairing the water supply, the electricity or any of the buildings and they are rotting.
“You cannot restore them, they are unusable, so you’ve just got to destroy them and start from scratch but this is the case for 95% of the buildings.”
Mr Zhluktenko said restrictions imposed on Russia if a nuclear attack were to happen would also have major financial implications on European countries and the US.
“The world has given Russia a chance to die slowly and allowed it remain a sovereign state, as it’s more profitable that way,” he said.
“It is bad for whole world if Russia collapses and dissolves into many independent states.”
Mr Zhluktenko said the potential threat of a nuclear war does not bother him as he has accepted that “freedom comes at a cost”.
“We are protecting our homeland, while on the Russian side there is no clear goal except for the total destruction of Ukraine,” he said.
“I’m fighting for freedom and I have already accepted that freedom always comes at a cost.
“That cost could be my life, or the life of my brother in arms, and I’m willing to pay that.
“If tomorrow there is a nuclear strike, I’ll be here and I’ll be sure that I did absolutely the right thing.”
Ukraine’s presidential office said on Friday at least 10 civilians were killed and 39 others were wounded by Russian shelling in nine Ukrainian regions over the last 24 hours.