Putin says risk of nuclear war is 'rising'

Putin says risk of nuclear war is ‘rising’ but insists Moscow has not ‘gone mad’ in televised meeting with officials who were warned ‘not to upset him’ with tough questions about the war in Ukraine

  • The Russian despot boasted that his country had the most ‘advanced weapons’
  • But he also insisted the Kremlin views its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent
  • He was speaking during a televised meeting of Russia’s ‘Human Rights Council’

Vladimir Putin warned today that the risk of nuclear war is ‘rising’ but insisted Moscow has not ‘gone mad’ during a televised meeting with officials.

The Russian despot boasted that his country had the most ‘advanced weapons’ in its arsenal, but claimed the Kremlin sees its own nuclear weapons purely as a deterrent.

His comments come after months of speculation that the likelihood of Russia using nuclear weapons in Ukraine was rising, as his forces suffer increasingly embarrassing defeats in the field. There have also been fears Putin may resort to using a dirty bomb and chemical weapons in an attempt to swing the balance in his favour.

Meanwhile, it was reported that Russia’s presidential body was warned ‘not to upset’ Putin with tricky questions about his on-going invasion ahead of the televised meeting that saw a rare honest admission from the country’s embattled leader.

Vladimir Putin warned in a televised meeting with officials today (pictured) that the risk of nuclear war is ‘rising’ but insisted Moscow has not ‘gone mad’

His comments come after months of speculation that the likelihood of Russia using nuclear weapons in Ukraine was rising, as his forces suffer increasingly embarrassing defeats

‘When we are struck, we strike back,’ Putin said during the meeting of his so-called Human Rights Council (HRC). 

He emphasised that Russia’s nuclear strategy was based on a ‘so-called retaliatory strike’, but added Moscow would defend the country’s territory ‘with all available means’ – not ruling out nuclear weapons.

According to Vyorstka, an investigative news website cited by the Moscow Times, HRC chairman Valery Fadeyev cleared all questions and topics to be covered in the meeting with the presidential administration in the weeks leading up to it.

Topics that were considered off-limits included Russia’s draconian laws criminalising ‘fake news’ about the military (which can result in 15 years in prison), anti-mobilisation protests, the recruitment of prisoners of war by the Wagner mercenary group that is fighting in Ukraine, and a harrowing video showing a Wagner deserter being executed by a sledgehammer to the head.

Members of the HRC were also told to avoid the ‘toxic’ topic of dead Russian troops, of which there have been tens of thousands since Putin ordered the invasion on February 24, 2022 – more than nine months ago.

Council members were also told to approach Putin about the poorly-run mobilisation campaign ‘very cautiously’, and avoid causing public fears about a second wave of mass recruitment, something Putin ruled out during the meeting.

Topics that HRC members were permitted to cover included Western sanctions and his often-spouted opinion that Russia is being hard-done-by by the West. 

Pictured: Ukrainian soldiers run to help people in an apartment house in fire after the Russian shelling in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, December 7, 2022

During the meeting, Putin seemed to state the obvious when he warned of a drawn-out military intervention in Ukraine – more than nine months into the conflict the Kremlin had hoped would end after a days-long assault on Kyiv.

His comments came after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said fresh Russian strikes on a market and gas station had killed six people and wounded several more in the frontline region of Donetsk.

With the one-year mark of the conflict approaching, Russian forces have missed most of their key military goals including toppling the Ukrainian government, capturing the Donbas region and annexing four regions.

Moscow had expected fighting to last just days before Ukraine’s capitulation, but on Wednesday Putin warned results could be a long time coming.

‘As for the long process of (seeing) results of the special military operation, of course, this is a lengthy process,’ Putin said during a televised meeting with the Kremlin’s human rights council.

But he praised the announced annexation of four Ukrainian territories into Russia after Moscow proxies held a referendum – denounced in the West as a sham – and announced their integration in September.

‘New territories appeared – well, this is still a significant result for Russia and this is a serious issue,’ Putin said.

This aerial picture taken on December 7, 2022 shows an expert of the prosecutor’s office examining collected remnants of shells and missiles used by the Russian army to attack the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

The Russian leader formalised the annexation of the four southern and eastern territories – Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – at a ceremony in the Kremlin in September.

But Russian troops at no point controlled all of any of these regions and last month were forced out from the regional capital of the southern Kherson region after a months-long Ukraine counter-offensive.

That same month Putin announced Russia was mobilising hundreds of thousands of Russians to bolster Moscow’s struggling force after a series of battlefield setbacks, particularly in the Kharkiv region in northeast Ukraine.

On Wednesday he said half the Russians called up for military service in September had been deployed to Ukraine.

‘Out of 300,000 of our mobilised fighters, our men, defenders of the fatherland, 150,000 are in the area of operations,’ said Putin, adding that about 77,000 were in combat units.

Since the capture of Kherson city, fighting in Ukraine has focused on the industrial Donbas region, where Russian forces have been pushing to capture the frontline city of Bakhmut.

Zelensky – after visiting the frontline region this week – said Wednesday that Russian forces had killed six civilians and injured several in a recent bout of shelling.

‘Terrorists attacked the peaceful city of Kurakhove,’ he said in a statement on social media. ‘A market, a bus station, gas stations, and residential buildings came under fire. At least six civilians were killed, five were wounded.’

The Donetsk region has been partially controlled by Russian forces since 2014, when Moscow-backed separatists wrested control of Donbas near the Russian border and Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula. 

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