Scholz: Risk of Russia using nuclear weapons has diminished, for now

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers his speech before he hands over the Marion Doenhoff Prize for international understanding and reconciliation to Russian Irina Sherbakova, co-founder of Russian rights group Memorial, during the award ceremony in Hamburg, Germany, December 4, 2022. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

BERLIN (Reuters) - The risk of Russian President Vladimir President Putin using nuclear weapons as part of his war in Ukraine has decreased in response to international pressure, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview published on Thursday.

The war was continuing with "undiminished brutality" though, for now, one thing had changed, Scholz told Funke media in an interview to mark his first year in office.

"Russia has stopped threatening to use nuclear weapons. As a reaction to the international community marking a red line."

Despite deep divisions, it was important that dialogue with the Kremlin continued, Germany's leader added.

Putin said on Wednesday that the risk of a nuclear war was rising but insisted Russia had not "gone mad" and that it saw its own nuclear arsenal as a purely defensive deterrent.

Funke said the interview with Scholz was conducted on Monday and quotes authorised on Wednesday afternoon.

Scholz said Putin had to stop the war but afterwards, he would be prepared to talk to Russia about arms control in Europe, adding this had also been on offer before the war.

Defending Germany's support for Ukraine, which critics in Kyiv and elsewhere in Europe say has been too reticent, Scholz said after the United States, Germany was one of the biggest supporters of Ukraine, including with weapon supplies.

"We are doing everything we can to prevent a direct war between Russia and NATO. Such a conflict would have only losers – all over the world," he said.

Scholz said he expected Europe's biggest economy to get through the winter well and to remain a strong and successful industrial nation as it reduces its reliance on Russian energy.

"We are now making the necessary decisions to become independent in the long term. From 2045 onwards, we want to be completely climate-neutral and generate our energy entirely without natural gas, coal or oil," he said.

Asked if he would stand again as chancellor in the next election, he said: "Of course".

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers)

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