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Vladimir Putin will “never accept his failure” in Ukraine – and the West has no choice but to take his nuclear threats seriously, a UK-based expert in Russian politics has warned. Nikolay Petrov said the situation was “dangerous”, with Putin having adopted a “criminal logic” in relation to his war on Ukraine, reasoning cracks will form in the international alliance against him as concern mounts about his increasingly belligerent behaviour.
And he warned Western leaders not to discount the possibility of Putin doing the unthinkable as the tide continues to turn against him seven months into the invasion he ordered on February 24.
Mr Petrov, a research fellow at the Chatham House think tank in London, was speaking before Putin unleashed a barrage of missile attacks on Ukraine yesterday in retaliation for a bomb attack on the Kerch bridge, which links southern Russia with Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014.
He told Express.co.uk: “I think that the situation is dangerous because Putin is not the person who can accept his failure.
Vladimir Putin launched missile attacks on Ukraine after the Kerch bridge explosion
A rescue dog is seen during firefighters search a damaged building in Zaporizhzhia
“So he will keep making efforts until the very end, and secondly, the Russian so-called elite or political class, is atomised, it is not capable to oppose Putin.
“So they are threatened, they are not connected to each other, meaning that they do not applaud what’s going on, but they cannot make any serious move against what is going on.
“So in my view, Putin will try next to put a lot of pressure on to Ukraine, bombing civilian infrastructure and energy infrastructure on the eve of the winter, and he will use this leverage against Ukraine and against the West.
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“And the last option is to use tactical nuclear weapons which is not a very rational move by any standards, but we are not seeing rational moves coming from Putin for a while.”
Asked to speculate about Putin’s thought processes, Mr Petrov added: ”I think this is more a kind of criminal logic.
“In other words, you should never make any threats without being sure that you can realise these threats. Otherwise, you’re weak.
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Jeremy Fleming, director of the GCHQ spy agency
Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s President
”So of course, Putin is bluffing but step by step. He is demonstrating that he’s serious and he has put himself into the corner.
“He’s raising the stakes all the time, hoping that after the next move, the other side will get afraid and will change its behaviour.
“But it didn’t happen in past and there are no signs, no hopes for Putin that it will happen in future.”
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Looking at the current situation: “The first stage it’s almost here, I mean, one being infrastructure and trying to use energy as leverage.
“The final stage is usage of tactical nuclear weapons, but I think that will cause a very negative reaction, very negative consequences for Putin, not only internationally, but domestically as well.
“So it will be a kind of suicidal move, but you can never discount it.”
Britain would expect to see indicators if Russia was starting to consider deploying its nuclear arsenal in its war with Ukraine, Britain’s top cyber spy said today, repeating that any talk of using such weapons was highly dangerous.
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Jeremy Fleming, director of the GCHQ spy agency, told BBC Radio that Russia was running short of munitions, friends and troops.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has so far stayed within established military doctrine of not using nuclear weapons, Mr Fleming pointed out, but his agency would be looking out for signs that this could change.
He said: “I would hope that we will see indicators if they started to go down that path. But let’s be really clear about that, if they are considering that, that would be a catastrophe in the way that many people have talked about”.
Fleming also said he was sure Putin was worried about the dangers of escalation and that might be a sign of why “he has not reached for these other forms of waging war”.