Russian media reports say top Russian diplomat warned Ukraine against provoking a third world war and said the threat of a nuclear conflict “should not be underestimated”

According to RBC, Sergei Lavrov on Monday said in an interview on Russian state television the threat of a nuclear war “should not be underestimated” as he accused NATO of engaging in a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine, a warning that comes a day after U.S. officials said Washington’s goal in the Ukraine conflict was to see Russia’s military capability weakened.

When asked about the risk of a third world war, Lavrov said Russia was doing everything to prevent nuclear war but those risks are now “considerable.”

Lavrov added that he was opposed to elevating those risks “artificially” but warned that the danger was “serious and real” and should not be underestimated.

In early March, one week after Russia launched its so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine, Russia’s top diplomat warned that a destructive conflict involving nuclear weapons would happen if the third world war were to take place, according to Reuters

Meanwhile, Western media reports say Russian forces took the Ukrainian city of Kreminna in the Lugansk region after days of street-to-street fighting.

“The city of Kreminna has reportedly fallen and heavy fighting is reported south of Izyum as Russian forces attempt to advance towards the cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk from the north and east,” the British military said in a tweet, according to ABC News.  It did not say how it knew the city, 575 kilometers southeast of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, had fallen.

The United States has been rushing more weaponry to Ukraine and said the assistance from Western allies is making a difference in the 2-month-old war.

“Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared Monday after he and the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Kiev to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Blinken reportedly said Washington approved a US$165 million sale of ammunition — non-U.S. ammo, mainly if not entirely for Ukraine's Soviet-era weapons — and will also provide more than US$300 million in financing to buy more supplies.

Mr. Austin, for his part, went further, saying the U.S. wants to see Ukraine remain a sovereign, democratic country, but also wants "to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.”

ABC News notes that Austin’s remarks appeared to represent a shift in U.S. strategic goals since earlier Washington said the goal of American military aid was to help Ukraine win and to defend Ukraine’s NATO neighbors against Russian threats.

In an apparent response to Austin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia has “a feeling that the West wants Ukraine to continue to fight and, as it seems to them, wear out, exhaust the Russian army and the Russian military industrial war complex. This is an illusion.”