A GROWING band of Kremlin insiders fear their Russian leader will resort to nuclear weapons to defeat Ukraine and halt a palace coup, reports say.
Putin’s critics are spread across senior positions in government and state-run business, according to Bloomberg who cited ten sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
The sources shared the concerns previously expressed by US intelligence officials that Putin could use tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine.
During an interview on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov didn’t give a direct answer to repeated questions on whether Russia might use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
The interim US ambassador to the UK, Philip Reeker, told Sky News: “Well, as our director of Central Intelligence, Bill Burns, said in open testimony last week, this is something we have to be concerned about.
“Putin himself has raised this. So certainly it’s something we have to watch very closely, the kind of brutality that Putin has enacted – we’ve seen it before, but it’s hard to imagine what he’s doing.
“And it seems like there’s very little that would stop him, particularly when he makes those kinds of threats.”
The former British ambassador to Ukraine, Leigh Turner said: “If Russia is visibly losing this war, it could be that Putin would authorise their use.”
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He added that “we cannot completely rule out the use of nuclear weapons, tactical nuclear weapons, although I would hope that that remains quite unlikely”.
Fears that Russia could use its nuclear capability grew last month when nuclear capable artillery guns were seen blasting the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
The 2S7M howitzer can bombard their targets from 35 miles away and have massive barrels capable of firing laser guided 100kg eight inch shells.
Russia is thought to have around 2,000 nuclear weapons in their arsenal in the form of small yield missiles, torpedoes and artillery shells.
Both the US and Russia are believed to have invested much time and money into developing smaller battlefield-ready atomic weapons.
The weapons lack the truly terrifying devastating destructive power of the biggest Cold War-era weapons – such as the Tsar Bomba.
A single 58 megaton Tsar Bomba could cause devastation across 50 miles area, kill millions of people, send a shockwave that would circle the globe three times, and cause a mushroom cloud visible for 500 miles.
Such a bomb was deemed far too big to ever be used due to the potentially apocalyptic consequences of such a nuclear exchange.
But that sort of thinking is what has pushed war planners to develop and potentially use tactical – as opposed to strategic – nuclear weapons.
Mr Turner also stated: “President Putin launched this war in order to try and keep himself in power and to stop any growth of democracy in Russia.”
Putin is believed to have surrounded himself with a group of hardline advisors and has dismissed attempts at trying to warn him of the cost, economically and politically, of the conflict.
It comes as…
Previously, analysts have said the Kremlin was surprised both by the scale of the Western sanctions and the stern resistance put up by Ukrainian forces.
With no end to the conflict in sight, Putin is said to be increasingly paranoid.
Earlier this month, Vlad removed at least 150 top commanders from the Russian spy agency the FSB, in a “Stalinist-style” purge in response to the bungled war.
Putin, though, is said to think of himself as being on an historic mission, according to the sources, and believes he has the support of the Russian people.
All you need to know about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Everything you need to know about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine…
Russia initially expected to seize Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, in just a matter of days but after almost two months of fighting its forces have pulled back from the city and the invading forces have refocused on taking land in the eastern Donbas region.
Publicly, Putin has claimed that the sanctions imposed by the Western countries, which he called an “economic Blitzkrieg” have failed to have an impact on Russia’s economy.
Despite his claims, the ruble has plummeted by 40 per cent in the wake of the restrictions.
The head of Russia’s central bank Elvira Nabiullina has warned the full impact of the sanctions has not yet been fully felt.
The bank has had half of its reserves, some £490billion, frozen due to the sanctions and businesses have dropped decades of investment and closed down operations, almost overnight.
Moscow’s mayor has also warned that up to 200,000 job could be lost in the Russian capital.
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