Vladimir Putin describes the assassination attempts against him
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Tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine continue to rise as NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warns Moscow “can never win a nuclear war”. Mr Stoltenberg also said the Kremlin must stop its “dangerous, irresponsible nuclear rhetoric”. A few days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, President Vladimir Putin said he was putting his nuclear deterrent forces on high alert. His comments come as mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, told reporters that almost all of Irpin, a town northwest of the capital, is in Ukrainian hands.
The western town of Makariv has also been taken back by Ukrainian troops, he added.
Military analysts believe Russia’s invasion has not gone how Moscow would have planned, with Ukrainian forces putting up a tough fight and preventing Russian soldiers from taking control of many major cities.
As a result, some experts believe the invasion could end up being a political disaster for Putin.
Kurt Volker, a former US ambassador to NATO, told CNBC this week: “I don’t think Russia can win.”
He added: “They’re bogged down. They’re having trouble with supplies. They are having trouble with ammunition.
“They are not able to take the major cities. They’re not advancing. They are showing a lot of desperate measures like calling in Syrians or asking the Chinese for help, or threatening to attack the NATO countries’ [weapons] supplies [to Ukraine] and raising the spectre of biological or chemical or nuclear use.
“These are all signs of, I think, desperation. And so time is working against them now.”
Mr Volker also said that Russia’s desperation for a quick win in Ukraine means that it is now resorting to what he described as “barbarian tactics” including “targeting civilians directly, shelling cities” to try to create “fear and exhaustion in the population”.
The Kremlin has maintained from the start of the conflict a month ago that its forces are merely undertaking a “special military operation” rather than an invasion.
Ukrainian MP, Inna Sovsun, told Express.co.uk that earlier this month Putin’s plan has “failed”.
She said: “The entrances to Kyiv have been blockaded by the Ukrainian army – the Russians’ plan to take the city in 24 hours has basically failed.
“The 60km convoy has basically stalled, it is not moving anywhere.”
Urging the West to step in and provide more military support, she said: “Ukraine’s army has been kicking their a***, the Russian army is not as strong as it is meant to be, they are badly equipped, their morale is bad.
“It is not actually that strong an army – and compared to NATO’s armies, I don’t think Russia can stand in that fight.
“I know there is this nuclear threat everyone is mentioning, but I think it is overstated.
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“After all, there are some less crazy people in Putin’s surroundings who won’t let that happen. Some people in Russian intelligence are providing information to the West and to Ukraine.
“I believe these people will prevent the worst from happening.”
Russia has also been targeted with tough sanctions, and it appears Putin is ready to retaliate.
Yesterday, he said Russia would start selling its gas to “unfriendly countries” in roubles.
The potential ramifications of that move, which Putin ordered his government to sort out in one week, could boost the Russian currency, with a host of European countries still dependent on Moscow for much of their energy supplies.
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