Washington responded to Russian President Vladimir Putin's statements regarding the increasing risk of nuclear war, accusing him of being irresponsible and underestimating nuclear weapons.

Putin said on Wednesday that the risk of a nuclear war is increasing, but added that his country is aware of the nature of nuclear weapons and considers them a tool to respond only to being attacked.

The Russian president warned that his country possesses the most advanced weapons, but does not want to brandish them and considers them a tool of deterrence, he said. He also warned that Russia's "special military operation" in Ukraine could become long-term.

At the same time, Putin accused the West of using the doctrine of human rights to destroy the sovereignty of states, stressing that Russia relies primarily on peaceful means, but is ready to defend itself by all means available, he said.

Recklessness and irresponsibility

The US response came from State Department spokesman Ned Price, who refused to respond directly to Putin, but considered that his statements were broad, irresponsible, and underestimating nuclear weapons.

Price added that nuclear powers around the world, including China, India, the United States and Russia itself, have been clear since the Cold War that "a nuclear war can never be fought and can never be won."

According to Agence France-Presse, a recent review of the US position by President Joe Biden concluded that nuclear weapons should only be used in "extreme circumstances."

Russia recently postponed indefinitely bilateral talks on nuclear arms control that were to be held in Cairo, accusing the United States - seeking to punish it for its invasion of Ukraine - of being hostile.

But NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the chances for peace in Ukraine do not exist now.

He added in an interview with the Financial Times that Russia is trying to freeze the war with Ukraine in order to prepare for a bigger attack next spring, he said.

What NATO is doing, Stoltenberg said, is supporting Ukraine in its right to self-defense.

A Ukrainian soldier fires his artillery near Kharkiv (Reuters)

field developments

These statements came as the Russian war in Ukraine, which began last February, continues, as the Ukrainian army said on Wednesday that Russian forces continue to bomb the provinces of Kherson, Zaporizhia, Mykolaiv and Dnipro to the south, and destroyed several homes in the city of Kramatorsk in the east of the country.

The Ukrainian army added that the Russian forces focused their attack on Bakhmut, in the east of the country, and that they carried out dozens of air and artillery strikes over the past hours on its positions spread along the contact lines.

On the other hand, the Ukrainian General Staff said that during the past hours, its forces carried out raids and missile strikes on the positions of the Russian forces, and shot down 17 Russian drones in a number of contact lines.

On the other hand, the leader of the pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, said that the Russian army and its loyalists in the province are making progress towards the city of Bakhmut, adding that 4 civilians were killed and 19 wounded in the intense Ukrainian artillery and missile shelling that the city was exposed to on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Pushilin said that the Ukrainian forces fired dozens of rockets and missiles in what he described as indiscriminate shelling that targeted residential neighbourhoods, schools, kindergartens and churches.

The pro-Russian president of Donetsk accused the Ukrainian forces of mistreating the captured soldiers, stressing that they were being subjected to abuse.