Kremlin official threatens war against NATO if Ukraine uses US weapons against Russia

A top Russian official has said it could go to war with NATO if Ukraine strikes inside Russia with US weapons.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden partially lifted restrictions on how Ukraine can use military supplies sent by the US.

In response, senior Russian security official Dmitry Medvedev issued a series of warnings to the West.

"Russia regards all long-range weapons used by Ukraine as already being directly controlled by servicemen from NATO countries. This is no military assistance, this is participation in a war against us," Medvedev said.

"And such actions could well become a casus belli [an act that provokes a war]."

He said it would be a "fatal mistake" on the part of the West to think that Russia was not ready to use tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine - and spoke of the potential to strike unnamed hostile countries with strategic nuclear weapons.

"This is, alas, neither intimidation nor bluffing," said Mr Medvedev.

He said Moscow's conflict with the West was developing according to the worst case scenario and that "nobody today can rule out the conflict's transition to its final stage".

Read more: Ukraine-Russia war latest updates

The partially-lifted restrictions from the US mean Ukraine can use American weapons to strike inside of Russia but only in defence of Kharkiv.

However, US officials stressed that Ukraine still cannot use American long-range missiles and other munitions to strike inside Russia offensively.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and others have been increasingly vocal that US restrictions meant Ukrainian forces could not defend themselves as Russia intensified attacks around the north-east Kharkiv region.

A Putin-backed thinktank also suggested on Thursday that Russia should consider a "demonstrative" nuclear blast to scare Ukraine from using Western weapons inside its territory.

Read more from Sky News:
Ukraine launches major attack against Russian base in Crimea
Crowded DIY shop hit by Russian airstrikes, killing at least 14

Mr Medvedev, the senior Russian official responsible for Friday's threats, frequently makes dire threats to both Ukraine and the West, often invoking Russia's nuclear weapons.

Some commentators even say his wild statements could be designed to ensure he is not viewed as statesmanlike and therefore not considered a threat to Mr Putin's authority.

Although many do not attach huge significance to his threats, they could give a flavour of what the Kremlin is thinking, according to diplomats.