On Thursday, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church said that the world would end if the West tried to attack Russia, while a Putin loyalist warned NATO that a Russian triumph in Ukraine may trigger a nuclear confrontation.

Such apocalyptic rhetoric is intended to deter the NATO military alliance, which is headed by the United States, from becoming further involved in the war on the eve of a summit of Ukraine's allies to discuss giving Kyiv more weapons.

The unambiguous acknowledgment that Russia may lose on the battlefield, though, was a rare display of public hesitance from a significant individual in Putin's inner circle.

The deputy chairman of Putin's powerful security council and a former Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, said on Telegram that "the defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional confrontation may accelerate a nuclear war."

Nuclear powers "have never lost important clashes on which their existence hinges," according to Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012.

Similar sentiments were expressed by the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church at what he described as a difficult time for the country, adding that seeking to destroy Russia would mean the end of the world.

NATO and other military leaders are expected to meet on Friday at the German Ramstein Air Base to support the West's fight to defeat Russia in Ukraine. Medvedev advised them to think about the risks involved in their strategy.

In its "special military operation" in Ukraine, Putin has said that Russia would use all legal means to protect itself and its population from an aggressive and arrogant West.

The leader of the Kremlin recently made an effort to prepare the Russian people for a fight that the Western leaders insist they would never allow him to win while yet foretelling eventual victory.

The United States has denied Russian claims that it wants to destroy Russia, despite President Joe Biden's warning that a conflict between Russia and NATO may start World War Three.

Top Putin allies, however, assert that Russia is now at war with NATO itself, as shown by the tens of billions of dollars in military assistance from the United States and Europe to Ukraine, which is the Cold War nightmare of both Soviet and Western leaders.

Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, stated in a sermon, "We pray to the Lord that he bring the lunatics to reason and make them know that any plan to destroy Russia would be the end of the world."

The official news agency RIA reported him as saying that "this is a frightening era." We do, however, think that the Lord will continue to watch over Russia.

Putin's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, told reporters in Minsk that Russia will do all in its power to ensure that NATO and EU leaders "wake up" as soon as possible.

"I hope the sobering up will happen," Lavrov said.

We will do all in our power to help our NATO and EU allies sober up as soon as feasible.

One of the deadliest conflicts in Europe since World War Two and the worst standoff between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis resulted from Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

The United States and its allies have condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an imperial territorial grab, and Ukraine has vowed to fight back until the last Russian soldier has been expelled from its territory.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Medvedev has often threatened nuclear war, but his acknowledgment that Russia may lose demonstrates how concerned Moscow is about the expansion of Western military supplies to Ukraine.

Russia and the United States, the two nuclear superpowers by far, have 90% of the world's nuclear weapons.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, said "No, it does not suggest so" when asked whether Medvedev's remarks indicated that Russia was elevating the situation.

He said that Medvedev's remarks were perfectly in line with Russian nuclear doctrine, which allows for nuclear conflict in the case of a "conventional weapon assault on the Russian Federation when the fundamental survival of the state is threatened."