Oleksii Arestovych, a former adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said during a Thursday interview that Ukraine has the ability to quickly produce its own nuclear weapons "within a short time."
Arestovych, who also served as an officer in Ukraine's military intelligence service, made the remarks while speaking with Russian activist Mark Feygin.
As a frequent guest on Feygin's YouTube show, Arestovych often discusses the war in Ukraine, which Putin launched last February. He said in March that comments made by Putin show the Russian leader has seriously considered the possibility of Russia's "collapse" as a result of the war. Arestovych has also stated that Crimea would be a major target for Zelensky's forces during the conflict.
On Thursday, he said that if Moscow were to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine, non-nuclear countries could begin pursuing the development of nukes, including Ukraine.
According to a translation by the Kremlin-backed outlet RT, Feygin asked Arestovych if Kyiv could produce nuclear weapons.
"It can...within a short time," Arestovych replied.
Arestovich added that the war-torn country would need some time to obtain enriched uranium before it could be capable of making nuclear bombs. He then noted such a thing could be possible.
"Who knows where this uranium is just lying around?" he said. "You just walk and see a barrel of uranium. That's cool."
Arestovych served as an adviser to Zelensky until January of this year. He resigned from his position following backlash he experienced for suggesting on Feygin's show that Ukrainian air defense forces shot down a Russian missile in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro, resulting in the deaths of dozens of people.
Newsweek reached out to Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs via email for comment.
The Kremlin has denied it would turn to nuclear weapons in its war in Ukraine, even though Russian propagandists have frequently called for their use. However, the threat of a nuclear strike against Ukraine increased when Putin announced he would be deploying tactical nukes to Belarus, which shares a border with Ukraine and was used as a launch site for the beginning of Putin's invasion.
Last Saturday, President Joe Biden denounced the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons to Belarus as "absolutely irresponsible." Days later, he said the threat of Putin using those weapons in Ukraine is "real."
Zelensky, though, recently downplayed such a threat. Speaking to the BBC in an interview published Wednesday, he said that while Putin "will talk about the use of nuclear weapons, I don't think he is ready to do it because he is scared for his life, he loves it a lot."
He added: "But there is no way I could say for sure, especially about a person with no ties to reality, who in the 21st Century, launched a full-scale war against their neighbor."
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