Putin’s ‘catastrophe’ warning as Russian President’s ‘option’ to bomb near UK laid bare

Ukraine: LBC commentator on possibility of nuclear conflict

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Boris Johnson today accused the Russian President of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions at lunchtime, he said the bombing of innocent civilians “already fully qualifies as a war crime”. The accusation comes after Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of the same thing after air strikes on the country’s second city, Kharkiv. As Russia’s shocking invasion of their eastern European neighbour continues into its seventh day, attacks on key Ukrainian cities have intensified as fighting rages in the north, east and south of the country.

Putin continues to defy even the most pessimistic of his critics, in that many never thought he would annex Crimea, never thought the would start a war in the Donbas region and many believed he would actually invade Ukraine and try to capture Kyiv.

The Russian President is now raising the uncomfortable question of whether or not he would press the previously unthinkable nuclear button.

He placed Russia’s nuclear forces on “special alert” last week, just days after he had warned: “To anyone who would consider interfering from the outside — if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history.”

Putin is no stranger to issuing terrifying threats, and warned in a 2018 documentary called ‘The Putin Interviews’ of the consequences of any threat to Russian security.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone was granted unprecedented access to the Russian president in a two-year period, with the footage detailed in a four-part docuseries.

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Putin told him: “If someone decides to annihilate Russia, we have the legal right to respond.

“Yes, it will be a catastrophe for humanity and for the world.

“But I’m a citizen of Russia and its head of state. Why do we need a world without Russia in it?”

Fast forward four years and he has launched a war against Ukraine, and appears to be in a one-man fight against the rest of the world.

Moscow-based defence analyst Pavel Felgenhauer told the BBC this week that Putin is in a “tight spot”.

He said: “He doesn’t have many options left, once the West freezes the assets of the Russian Central bank and Russia’s financial system actually implodes, that will make the system unworkable.

“One option for him is to cut gas supplies to Europe, hoping that will make the Europeans climb down.

“Another option is to explode a nuclear weapon somewhere over the North Sea between Britain and Denmark and see what happens.”

Patrick Bury, a senior lecturer in security at the University of Bath, told the New Scientist this week that he believes there is about a 20 percent chance of a nuclear detonation.

He believes we are closer to nuclear conflict now than at any point in the post-Cold War period.

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Mr Bury said: “Putin has poked a sleeping giant. The West has responded massively.”

He added that any nuclear detonation may not necessarily lead to an all-out nuclear war.

He explained that a low-yield device could be used against the Ukrainian military, or alternatively a large device detonated somewhere at sea simply as a way of flexing Russian muscles.

Russia has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, with an estimated 6,255 nukes, according to the Stockholm Peace Institute.

Just how seriously the West is taking Putin’s nuclear threat is not entirely clear.

Ben Wallace, the UK’s Defence Secretary, accused Russia of posturing on Monday morning.

He told LBC that he assured his 12-year-old son: “No, we’re not going to have a nuclear war.

“What I’ve said to him is, look, President Putin is dealing at the moment in a rhetoric, he wants to distract from what’s gone wrong in Ukraine, and he wants us all to be reminded that he has a nuclear deterrent.”

Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, told a press conference: “This is dangerous rhetoric and irresponsible behaviour on Putin’s part.”

Nonetheless, the threat remains. Hacking group Anonymous, which claimed responsibility for cyberattacks on Russian banks, has called on Putin to be removed from his position.

They tweeted: “Nuclear weapons are weapons of evil.

“When a leader of a country is promoting a nuclear response, it is up to the people of that country to remove that leader by any means necessary.

“When a leader holds life on earth hostage with nuclear threats, they forfeit their leadership.”

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