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Putin’s upset ‘could turn to nukes’ as his missiles were downed in Kiev – Ex-US Army official

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Following the downing of his hypersonic missiles by Ukraine, Vladimir Putin “will likely turn to nuclear weapons,” according to an ex-US Army official.

On Tuesday, Ukraine’s air defence system forced the Kremlin to ground its most intense aerial attack to date against Kyiv.

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According to the US Centre for Strategic International Studies, Russian Kinzhal missiles—which translate as “dagger” in Russian—are some of the most advanced nuclear-capable weapons in the country’s arsenal.

Kevin Ryan, an associate fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. said Ukraine stopping Putin’s ‘unstoppable’ rockets has humiliated him.

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‘Putin is running out of ways to escalate the war in a way that would force Ukraine – and the West – to back down,’ he told the MailOnline.

‘His massive invasion and frequent bombing campaigns have failed to give him a decisive victory.

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‘If he cannot force a victory with conventional weapons, he will probably turn to nuclear weapons.’

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government, via video link at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia May 17, 2023. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
The shot-down missiles are the latest embarrassing blow to Vladimir Putin (Picture: Reuters)

According to UAwar, citing Ukrainian ministry data, Russia has lost nearly 179,000 soldiers, 3600 tanks and 2,750 artillery systems in the year-long conflict.

‘Russia’s conventional (non-nuclear) forces are already showing themselves not up to the task in Ukraine,’ Ryan added.

‘That is why Putin has relied so heavily on nuclear threats.

‘If it’s proven that the Kinzhal has not lived up to expectations, the effectiveness of the whole spectrum of Russia’s strategic weapons, nuclear and nonnuclear, are put in doubt.’

The Russian president has long made often vague threats about using nuclear weapons in the war.

From Putin threatening the use of ‘all available means’ to massive missiles being carted around in front of cameras, the Kremlin has made its stockpile clear.

Police officer inspects remains of a Russian cruise missile shot down by Air Defence Forces, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 18, 2023. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
The attack against Kyiv was one of the Kremlin’s largest in the year-long war (Picture: Reuters)

Experts have been conflicted about whether Putin could actually push the button.

The Heritage Foundation, a US think-tank, said in March that Putin’s ‘martyr complex’ could push him either way as his dreams of victory ‘collapse’.

Though, other analysts have said what could put Putin off from using nuclear arms is the wind, as it could blow radiation straight into Russian territory.

In 2020, the Kremlin said it has four reasons why it would ever resort to nuclear weapons, such as a pre-emptive strike or in response to a nuclear strike against it.

The executive order added that the only other two reasons for long-range nukes would be responding to a threat that would limit its control over its nuclear arms, such as a cyberattack, or when the ‘existence’ of Russia itself is threatened.

‘Russian doctrine has long accepted the use of shorter-range tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield and it is much more cautious about long-range strategic nuclear weapons designed to hit the enemy’s homeland,’ the Heritage Foundation added.

Hypersonic missiles can travel at least five times faster than the speed of sound (about a mile a second) and can swerve most defence systems.

After Tuesday’s barrage, US officials confirmed an American-made Patriot system – a top-of-the-line ground-based air defence system – had been damaged.

In a Telegram statement, Ukraine’s air force did not specify whether the Patriot system was involved in the shooting down of Russia’s hypersonic missiles.

‘Let’s keep the sky!’ the statement added.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky struck a similarly triumphant tone in a video speech to the Council of Europe, a major human rights organisation.

‘At 3 o’clock in the morning, our people woke up to explosions,’ he said, ‘eighteen Russian missiles of different types were in our skies, in particular, ballistic ones, which the terrorist state has boasted about.

‘We were told such missiles would bring a guaranteed death because they are supposedly impossible to shoot down.

‘But all lives were protected. All missiles were shot down, including ballistic ones – 100%.

‘This is a historical result.’


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