VLADIMIR Putin sparked alarm among Western leaders when he referenced the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuke attacks in a chilling call with French President Emmanuel Macron.
The two US bombings in August 1945 killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people and forced Japan into surrendering to the Allies.
The chilling warning comes as Putin ramps up threats about using a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine to counter losses on the battlefield.
According to the source, Macron was left “distinctly alarmed” by the comment.
“It sounded like a very heavy hint that Putin might detonate a tactical nuclear weapon in the east of Ukraine, while leaving Kyiv intact. That appeared to be the thrust of his remarks,” they said, according to the Daily Mail.
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A French government source said: “The two presidents have undoubtedly discussed the risk of nuclear weapons use.
“Putin wants to get the message across that all options are on the table, in line with Russian doctrine relating to nuclear weapons.”
No 10 was said to be so concerned about the threats that then PM Liz Truss became fixated with the weather forecast in case the wind blew a radioactive cloud over the UK.
Truss was allegedly told by UK intelligence chiefs that Putin might explode a nuke in the air over the Black Sea in a bid to avoid all-out nuclear war with the West.
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There were also concerns that Putin might “go nuclear” after Ukrainian forces attacked his beloved bridge connecting Russia and Crimea.
Putin has previously warned he would “use all the means at our disposal” if Russian territory came under threat.
The threat comes as frustrated Russian generals were caught discussing the use of a tactical nuke in Ukraine.
President Putin was reportedly not part of the conversations in the Kremlin, which come against a backdrop of increasingly tense nuclear rhetoric between Russia and the West.
John F Kirby, a National Security Council official, declined to comment on “the particulars” of the language used by Vlad’s insiders but added: “We’ve been clear from the outset that Russia’s comments about the potential use of nuclear weapons are deeply concerning, and we take them seriously.
“We continue to monitor this as best we can, and we see no indications that Russia is making preparations for such use.”
Russia’s terrifying nuclear arsenal is believed to contain up to 6,000 warheads, enough to cause worldwide devastation and between 200 to 300 million casualties.
That includes as many as 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, designed to be used on the battlefield to overwhelm conventional forces.
Such weapons have never been used in combat before but could be deployed in various ways, such as by artillery shells or missiles.
Even the use of a smaller tactical nuke could kill thousands and leave parts of Ukraine uninhabitable for years to come.
The Kremlin has also increasingly spread baseless rumours that Ukraine is planning to use a “dirty bomb” – a conventional explosive tipped with radioactive material.
Russia has been rattling its nuclear sabre while its forces continue to be pushed back, even as Moscow declared four regions as their own.
Putin has been brazen in his threats of turning the already devastating war nuclear – and Russian military doctrine does leave the door open for them to use a nuclear weapon.
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Defence sources reportedly claim one of the options on the table is for Putin to detonate a nuclear weapon on the border in a massive show of force, reports The Times.