Russia is “fully committed” to avoiding the use of nuclear weapons in its war with Ukraine, a spokesman for the Kremlin has claimed.
Vladimir Putin has previously threatened to use “all the means at our disposal” if his country is threatened in an indication that he would consider using tactical nuclear weapons in response to attacks on parts of Ukraine he has annexed.
The Russian president said he was "not bluffing" over his willingness to use nuclear weapons to defend his country.
Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, a mouthpiece for the Kremlin propaganda machine, has sought to calm fears of a possible dramatic escalation in the seven-month conflict.
She told a briefing on Thursday that Russia’s position had “not changed” and Moscow was not looking to enter into a nuclear war.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy previously said Putin understood that the “world will never forgive” a nuclear strike.
He added: “[Putin] understands that after the use of nuclear weapons he would be unable any more to preserve, so to speak, his life, and I’m confident of that.”
Watch: Vladimir Putin signs treaties annexing Ukrainian regions
UK defence secretary Ben Wallace has also stated that Putin is “highly unlikely” to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine conflict – but warned he is not acting in a “rational” way.
Despite Putin’s alarming grandstanding, the realities in Ukraine show that Russia is struggling in the conflict.
Moscow has illegally annexed the four areas of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia into Russia after internationally-criticised referendum votes.
Russia has said that the four regions, that make up 15% of Ukraine, would have Moscow’s “full protection”, in a further hint at the use of nuclear weapons.
However, Putin’s forces do not fully control any of those regions and Russian has continued to lose territory there to Ukraine's military.
Zelenskyy also said that he had signed a decree that nullified Russia’s attempts at annexation, adding: “Any treaties with which they try to seize our land – all this is worthless.”
In a sign that Putin is aware of the loss of control in the annexed regions, where Russian troops have been fleeing, the Russian president said “the situation will be stabilised”.
The UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) has given a fresh intelligence update that said Ukrainian forces were continuing to advance and recapture regions across both the northeastern and southern fronts.
The MoD briefing said: “Russian forces have typically broken contact and withdrawn. Russian commanders are likely to see the growing threat to the Nova Kakhovka sector as one of their most pressing concerns.
“The damaged river crossing over the Dnipro in this area remains one of the few routes available for them to resupply forces.”