The world has entered a new era where nuclear war is again a real threat, according to Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov.
In a BBC interview published ThursdayMuratov said he was worried about how far Russian President Vladimir Putin was willing to go in his standoff with the West over Ukraine.
“Two generations have lived without the threat of nuclear war,” he told the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg. “But that period is over. Will Putin push the nuclear button or not? Who knows? No one knows. No one can say for sure. »
Senior Kremlin officials have made several thinly veiled threats to the West since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Putin himself has repeatedly hinted within a year of the invasion that Russia could use a nuclear weapon if threatened, with US intelligence warning earlier this month that the Russian leader was expanding his arsenal of nuclear weapons.
In January, an ally of Putin published a warning to NATO that a nuclear war could be triggered by a Russian defeat in Ukraine, while the head of the Russian Orthodox Church warned that any Western desire to destroy Russia would mean the end of the world.
Muratov, who was interviewed by the BBC in Moscow, the Russian capital, said Russians were conditioned by the Kremlin to be ready for nuclear war.
“We see how state propaganda prepares people to think that nuclear war is not a bad thing,” he said. “On the TV channels here, nuclear war and nuclear weapons are promoted as if they were pet food.”
As the war in Ukraine raged, Russian propagandists used their platforms to hold discussions about their country’s nuclear capabilities.
last maya Russian TV show saw its hosts gossip and casually joke about how long it would take a ballistic missile to reach London, Paris or Berlin. In Januarya Russian TV host reportedly described France, Poland and Berlin as “legitimate targets” to hit for supplying arms to Ukraine.
Muratov described people in Russia as having been “irradiated by propaganda”, noting that in his country, state ideology was disseminated to the public via television, newspapers and social media.
“[The government] announcement: “We have this missile, this missile, another type of missile,” he added. “They talk about targeting Britain and France; about setting off a nuclear tsunami that sweeps America away. Why do they say that? So that the people here are ready.
A Russian government spokesperson was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Fortune.
Muratov, editor of the critical Kremlin newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa in 2021.
Both men shared the accolade for their “courageous” efforts to defend freedom of expression in countries where press freedom is restricted.
Since the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine last year, almost all independent media were banned or declared “foreign agents”, while major newspapers and major TV news channels – where the majority of Russians consume their news – remained under Kremlin control.
In SeptemberMuratov’s Novaya Gazeta – one of Russia’s last independent news outlets – has been stripped of its media license and effectively banned from operating.
Last year Muratov at auction his Nobel medal to raise funds for Ukrainian refugee children, with the prize reaching over $100 million.
Novaya Gazeta, co-founded by Muratov in 1993, was renowned for its in-depth exposes of abuses of power, human rights abuses and corruption under the Russian regime.
The Nobel committee noted in 2021 that several Novaya Gazeta journalists had been murdered in the past due to the nature of their work.