RIGA, Latvia — One of Russia’s top propagandists threatened Britain with annihilation by nuclear strike twice on his Sunday prime-time show — once by air and once by sea — ramping up the war of words against Britain over its vow to oust Russian forces from Ukraine.
“Just one launch, Boris,” Kiselyov said, referring to the British prime minister, “and England is gone. Once and for all. Why play with us?”
Kiselyov appeared to be accusing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of threatening Moscow with a nuclear strike — a baseless assertion that nonetheless plays well with Russia’s base and its false narrative that the country faces existential threats and is under attack.
Washington does not “take lightly” Russia’s threats to use tactical or low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine, CIA Director William J. Burns said last month, but Western intelligence has not cited concrete evidence of plans to target Kyiv or its allies.
Other experts, such as John Everard, a former U.K. ambassador to Belarus, have minimized Russia’s ability to wipe out Ireland and Britain with one weapon.
“I would urge everybody just to keep calm. By all means, if you feel strongly about it, make your things clear to the Russians. But can we please remember this is just a television mock-up,” Everard said to RTE. “The Russians do not have” such a weapon.
Moscow inaccurately cast its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine as one of self-defense, and its bombastic campaign of disinformation has raised alarm in Western capitals that Russia could lay further false flags to widen its attacks despite a concerted global blowback.
Kiselyov directed his comments Sunday toward Johnson, who visited Kyiv last month in a show of solidarity, and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who last week said it was a “strategic imperative” for the West that Ukraine win the nearly 10-week-long war.
“We will keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine,” Truss said during an event in London on Wednesday.
Truss’s comments implied that the United Kingdom aims for Russia to leave not only recently occupied areas of Ukraine but also large parts of the eastern Donbas region and Crimea in the south, which Moscow has controlled since 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin last month said he was redirecting the war’s efforts toward securing Russia’s control of the east.
Kiselyov on Sunday night was not pleased with Britain’s support.
“England is bluffing,” he said on his show, and looking “to deplete Russia” rather than consider “the cost of continuing hostilities for Ukraine and Ukrainians.”
“Simply put, we are ready now,” he warned.
Kiselyov pointed to an animated graphic of the Sarmat, Russia’s newest nuclear missile, hitting the British Islands and erasing the United Kingdom from the map.
Britain “is so small that one Sarmat missile will be enough to drown it once and for all,” he said, without providing evidence.
Russia test-launched the RS-28 Sarmat — which NATO dubbed “Satan 2″ — at an event overseen by Putin in April. The Russian president said the Sarmat was meant to “provide food for thought to those who in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric try to threaten our country.” Putin first introduced the missile in his 2018 State of the Nation address, calling it the “next generation” of weaponry that could breach “any missile defense” system.
The intercontinental ballistic missile has the capacity to carry a large nuclear warhead, but defense officials and scholars told The Washington Post in April that it did not pose a significant threat to the United States.
It's Sunday night in Russia which means that state TV's Dmitry Kiselyov is talking about Russia using its nukes— Francis Scarr (@francis_scarr) May 1, 2022
This time, with the help of a terrifying cartoon, he claims that "one Sarmat missile is enough to sink the British Isles" (with subs) pic.twitter.com/NqbQfkm6rX
Switching gears and graphics on the broadcast, Kiselyov simulated the alleged threat of another “unique” weapon he said Russia has in development — an underwater nuclear-capable Poseidon drone, which he claimed has a warhead capacity of up to 100 megatons.
“The explosion of this thermonuclear torpedo off the coast of Britain will raise a giant wave up to 500 meters high,” Kiselyov said, without providing evidence. “Such a water squall also carries extreme doses of radiation. Passing over the British Isles, it will turn what may be left of them into a radioactive desert.”
Kiselyov did not directly mentioned Ireland, but Irish lawmakers including Prime Minister Micheál Martin described the mock-up of the Russian nuclear attack to Irish national broadcaster RTE as “very sinister, intimidatory-type tactics.” He called for Russia to apologize for “whoever instigated this.”
“It reflects a mind-set that is worrying and not in touch with reality,” Martin said.
Martin did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment Tuesday afternoon Eastern time.
European Parliament member Billy Kelleher, who is Irish, expressed his “absolute disgust at these threats to Ireland.”
“There is no free speech in #Russia so these statements are being made with Putin’s approval,” he tweeted Monday. “Time to tell Russian Government that this wild language is simply unacceptable to us.”
This is not the first time Kiselyov has flaunted Russian nukes and fake news on his show during tense moments in Russian geopolitical standing.
In early 2014, as Russia faced international fallout over its seizure of Crimea, Kiselyov threatened to turn the United States into “radioactive dust” with a nuclear strike. The Russian arsenal was so menacing, he said in March 2014, that it had turned 52-year-old President Barack Obama’s hair gray.
Berger and Bella reported from Washington. Karla Adam contributed to this report.