A nuclear missile strike on the West may be a common theme when Kremlin propagandist Margarita Simonyan is a guest on Russian TV shows, but her apparent call for atomic weapon use in Russia has sparked consternation as well as legal action.
The editor-in-chief of Kremlin mouthpiece RT sparked an outcry when she said that Russia could “conduct a thermonuclear explosion hundreds of kilometers above our own territory somewhere in Siberia” to rattle the West and its support for Ukraine in the war Moscow started.
The ally of Vladimir Putin was citing the suggestion of a scientist that such a blast would send a strong message to Russian adversaries without consequences on the ground. It would disable radio electronics allowing a return to 1993, which in her view was a time when “we lived wonderfully.”
But Anatoly Lokot, the mayor of Siberia’s largest city, Novosibirsk, begged to differ, saying with a degree of understatement “there is nothing good about thermonuclear explosions.” Lokot pointed to his credentials as a trained physicist in saying that the consequences of such blasts be last “not just hundreds of years but millennia.”
Other scientific voices agreed, with the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences telling Siberian news outlet NGS that a thermonuclear explosion would have catastrophic consequences and millions could die.
A physicist from Novosibirsk State Technical University, Valery Khristoforov, said that even if a nuclear bomb exploded at altitude and “won’t immediately kill people en masse, still the radioactive fallout will move around the Earth in the atmosphere.”
The condemnation of Simonyan extended to political circles. State Duma defense committee member Viktor Sobolev told the outlet the Daily Storm that “there is no need for Russia to come out with such statements.”
Meanwhile, the State Duma deputy Maria Prusakova, a lawmaker from Siberia’s Altai Territory, gave a direct video address to Simonyan in which she said her words had been taken by Siberians “as a deep insult.”
“I would like to remind you that it was thanks to the Siberians that the Soviet people defeated fascism in the Great Patriotic War,” she said, “therefore, at a minimum, you must apologize to the residents of all of Siberia.”
Some pro-Russian and pro-war bloggers and Telegram channels also condemned the comments, such as MIG Russia. The Kremlin distanced itself from Simonyan’s comments, with Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters that her non-governmental role meant that “her words do not always reflect the official position.”
However, Nikolai Korolev, assistant to Moscow City Duma deputy, Evgeniy Stupin, said he had referred Simonyan’s comments to Russia’s Investigative Committee and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, demanding she face charges.
“Such statements are a violation of the legislation of the Russian Federation,” he wrote on Telegram, as he disparaged the “wildness and absurdity” of her views.
In response, Simonyan said she made a police complaint against Korolev insisting that she had not proposed such a “heresy” as to call for a nuclear strike on Russian territory.
“Such a monstrous accusation discredits my reputation and causes me all sorts of damage and suffering,” she said, without clarifying in what way her comments had been taken out of context. Newsweek has contacted the Kremlin by email for comment.