The United Nations on Monday raised the alarm over the possibility of nuclear escalation as the war of Ukraine enters its third week.
Speaking to reporters, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Russia’s decision to raise its alert level for its nuclear forces a “bone-chilling development.”
“The prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility,” said Guterres, who repeated his call for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Ukraine.
Russia’s “special military operation” into Ukraine began on February 24 and has sent more than 2.8 million people across its borders as refugees. The move triggered sweeping sanctions from Western nations, which are now having a heavy impact on economies worldwide.
Guterres’ remarks come weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin said late last month that his nation's nuclear forces were being put on high alert, raising the prospect of a nuclear war should the United States and NATO intervene in Ukraine through the imposition of a no-fly zone.
While Russia has placed its forces on high alert, U.S. officials said they have seen no reason thus far to raise America’s DEFCON levels.
Both the United States and Russia have the two largest arsenals of nuclear warheads following the end of the Cold War, which saw the two global superpowers at an impasse for more than five decades during the 20th century.
In addition to calling for a cessation of hostilities, Guterres called for the preservation of the security and safety of nuclear facilities in Ukraine, including the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which was the site of a battle. One administrative building was damaged in the attack, contrary to initial reports that a fire had broken out at the nuclear reactors, Rebel News reported.
“It is time to stop the horror unleashed on the people of Ukraine and get on the path of diplomacy and peace,” Guterres said.
The U.N. chief said that the organization was going to allocate a further $40 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund for humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.
“This funding will help get critical supplies of food, water, medicines and other lifesaving aid into the country as well as provide cash assistance,” Guterres said.