Western leaders have expressed concern about the scale of nuclear sabre-rattling over Ukraine by senior Russian officials, including President Putin, especially after February’s invasion.
How does Moscow react to charges it is engaging in such rhetoric and threats?
I asked one of Russia’s most powerful officials, Sergei Naryshkin, head of the SVR Foreign Intelligence Service, to respond to international criticism.
He denied any Russian nuclear rhetoric, even though there’s been plenty.
Mr Naryshkin pointed the finger back at the West.
“Will you state categorically that Russia will not use nuclear weapons in Ukraine or engage in other provocative actions, such as exploding a dirty bomb, or blowing up a dam?” I asked Mr Naryshkin.
Russia’s spy chief didn’t answer the question directly. “We are, of course, very concerned about Western rhetoric about the possibility of using nuclear weapons,” Sergei Naryshkin responded.
“Yesterday Russia’s defence minister talked by phone with his colleagues from Turkey, the US and France. He told them about the possible plans of the Ukrainian leadership to use a so-called ‘dirty nuclear bomb’,” Mr Naryshkin continued.
“But there is no evidence to back up that claim,” I pointed out.
The UK, US and French governments issued a joint statement on the Russian government’s claims. They rejected what they called “Russia’s transparently false allegations” against Kyiv, adding: “The world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation. We further reject any pretext for escalation by Russia.”
I was speaking to Sergei Naryshkin at the opening of an exhibition at the Russian Army Museum.
It is a sobering experience – an exhibition that transports you back to a time when the world was on the edge of nuclear Armageddon.