Russian news agency TASS quoted a Russian Security Council official as saying Thursday that if Ukraine is admitted into the US-led NATO military alliance, the conflict in Ukraine will escalate into World War III.

“Kyiv is well aware that such a step would mean a guaranteed escalation to World War III,” Alexander Venediktov, the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said.

Notably, soon after Russia annexed four Ukrainian regions, Kyiv applied for a fast-track NATO membership. However, for that to happen all 30 NATO countries need to give their consent which seems unlikely right now.

Venediktov added that Ukraine’s application was mere propaganda as the West understood the consequences of granting NATO membership to Ukraine.

“The suicidal nature of such a step is understood by NATO members themselves,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been critical of the US’ attempts to expand NATO’s expansion towards the East and luring former Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Georgia. After annexing the four Ukrainian regions, Putin warned that he was ready to take up nukes in order to defend Russian territories.

US President Joe Biden had earlier said the world faces the biggest risk of nuclear Armageddon since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. NATO is due to hold an annual nuclear preparedness exercise dubbed “Steadfast Noon” next week.

Venediktov also cautioned against Zelensky’s call for preventive strikes against Russia, adding that nuclear war would have catastrophic consequences for the world.

“We must remember: a nuclear conflict will affect absolutely the whole world — not only Russia and the collective West, but every country on this planet,” Venediktov said. “The consequences would be disastrous for all mankind.”

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