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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sergeyev Says Legal to Use Nuclear Arms

Russia believes it has the legal right to use its nuclear weapons to defend itself from an external threat, especially given the weakened state of the country's conventional forces, the defense minister said Thursday.

"We frankly admit that at a time of reform of the entire military organization of the country, and of certain reduction in the combat ability of the conventional forces, the role of the nuclear deterrent factor is increasing," Igor Sergeyev said.

Sergeyev's comments, in a speech at the Greek Academy of National Defense in Athens, were carried by Itar-Tass.

However, Sergeyev said Russia is aware of the dangers of nuclear weapons and remains committed to the principles of nuclear deterrence.

Many Russian officials have said that the country's army f plagued by chronic underfunding, hazing among conscripts and miserable living conditions f has lost much of its combat ability.

President Boris Yeltsin wants to create a leaner, profession force. Many defense experts say the reform has made little progress, but Yeltsin said Thursday "military reform is under way."