• A top Ukrainian official said Putin's threats of using nuclear weapons are just part of a blackmail attempt
  • Russia suspended its participation in the last remaining nuclear weapons treaty with the U.S.
  • Putin later clarified that Russia is not abandoning the treaty

Russia's President Putin takes part in an event marking Gazprom's 30th anniversary, via video link outside Moscow

A top Ukrainian official has suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin's threats of using nuclear weapons are just part of a blackmail attempt, adding that Putin is likely afraid of NATO's response to him if he uses nuclear warheads in the conflict in Ukraine.

Speaking to European Pravda, Andrii Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, also said that Putin likely knows that Russia will stand no chance of winning against the NATO alliance.

"Nuclear blackmail is happening all the time, but we believe that at the moment it is just blackmail... A person sitting at a six-meter table may not be worried about the fate of others, but he is afraid for himself," Yermak said, as translated by Ukrainska Pravda. "He knows that Russia has no chance in a conflict with NATO."

Yermak's remarks come after Putin on Tuesday announced that Russia will suspend its participation in the New START treaty, its last remaining nuclear weapons treaty with the United States. It follows Russia's decision to postpone talks to restart inspections under the treaty after it was put on hold in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The New START treaty allows each country to inspect the other country's nuclear arsenal multiple times each year to verify that the weapons pact is being followed. Additionally, the treaty requires countries to regularly communicate about military equipment and operations to prevent any future accidents.

Despite suspending Russia's participation, Putin said Moscow is not abandoning the treaty and said he is not seeking to bulk up the Russian army's nuclear arsenal.

President Joe Biden called Russia's decision a "big mistake." NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged Putin to reconsider his decision to suspend Russia's participation in the treaty.

"I regret today's decision by Russia to suspend its participation in the New START treaty," Stoltenberg said in a press conference. "With today's decision on New START, full arms control architecture has been dismantled. I strongly encourage Russia to reconsider its decision and respect existing agreements."

Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine is set to hit its one-year mark Friday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's nuclear threats since the start of the war with Ukraine have sent chills around the world