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Putin ‘could use nukes in huge escalation of war to mark sham re-election’

VLADIMIR Putin could unleash nuclear weapons in a “huge escalation” of the war in Ukraine to mark his sham re-election, experts have warned.

Kremlin sources said the tyrant is set to run in next year’s presidential election – which would keep the 71-year-old in power until at least 2030.

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Putin’s re-election as president may bring an escalation in aggression towards the WestCredit: AP
The launch of the Yars intercontinental ballistic missile during a training exercise

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The launch of the Yars intercontinental ballistic missile during a training exerciseCredit: EPA
A model of the Soviet-made thermonuclear bomb Tsar Bomba on display in Moscow

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A model of the Soviet-made thermonuclear bomb Tsar Bomba on display in MoscowCredit: Reuters

Putin’s advisers are currently preparing for his presidential campaign in the lead up to March’s election, insiders told Reuters.

The election is a formality if he runs – with the support of the state, the state media and almost no mainstream public dissent making his win certain.

But experts warned that Putin “won’t settle for a frozen conflict” in Ukraine and “won’t leave the war undone”.

Since first becoming Russia’s president, Vlad has prided himself on his strongman image and has surrounded himself with other “hard men”.

The failing war in Ukraine is not how he will want to be remembered – meaning he could take drastic action.

It means he could use his expected re-election and cementing of his iron fist power in March to ramp up the war – or even invade other countries.

Dr Stephen Hall, an expert on Russia at the Henry Jackson Society, said the Russian leader staying in power would spark “an escalation in the aggression against Ukraine and the West”.

“There is a possibility that he would use a small nuclear weapon that would take out a block out of Kyiv or Kharkiv,” he told The Sun.

“For Putin, this is existential.

“He won’t settle for a frozen conflict, there is going to be Russian antipathy towards Ukraine as long as Putin remains in power.”

Although he added that the use of a nuclear weapon on London or Berlin seemed unlikely, he said: “There is a potential that Putin would want to invade other countries.

“There is the possibility that he will not stop in Ukraine. He is likely to move on places like Kazakhstan or Moldova, or possibly Georgia.

“He would like to weaken the West. Putin will certainly look for ways to try and destabilise the West.”

Professor Vladislav Zubok from the London School of Economics added: “Military experts don’t see how the war can be escalated in a conventional way.

“So people raise the issue of nuclear weapons… well, that would be the end of the world we know.”

Russian and Eurasian security expert Emily Ferris said the West would be “foolish” to ignore Putin’s nuclear threats.

According to Ferris, such extreme reactions and threats are because of what the war has come to symbolise for Putin.

“Putin can’t leave the war undone because that would become his legacy,” she said.

“He is concerned with how he is going to be remembered.”

Putin’s expected re-election bid follows his unveiling of the Russian model of the most powerful nuclear weapon to have ever been created.

At his exhibition “Russia”, designed to showcase his achievements, Putin has put on display a model of the notorious 50-megaton Tsar Bomba detonated in 1961. 

Dubbed the “King of Bombs”, the weapon had been created to prove that Soviet scientists had caught up to the West in terms of destructive power.

The mega-bomb has over 3,000 times more energy than the nuclear bomb that fell on Hiroshima. 

The model being put on display now, along with the announcement of Putin’s presidential bid, has been regarded by many as a signal of the Russia‘s hostility to the West.

Ferris predicts Putin’s re-election will bring with it an increasingly intolerant, patriotic and militarised society in Russia – and one that seeks to project their power.

She also believes Russia will continue pivoting towards the Middle East.

Relationships were formed over a decade ago – but they have been accelerated as Russia loses allies in Europe over the war.

Last month, a delegation of Hamas officials visited the Kremlin in the aftermath of the October 7 attacks.

Putin has been accused of lending legitimacy to the terrorist organisation, but this should come as no surprise given their longstanding military ties with Hezbollah.

The Kremlin has refused to condemn either organisation, and has instead chosen to play on the chaos caused.

Dr Hall said: “Russia knows that Western attention is relatively short lived. Ukraine’s been in it for two years and they know that western attention will move on from their war.

“The Middle East is a very good palisade in regards to that. It is very useful for Russia.

“We can see that it has strong relationships with the Middle East, with Hezbollah and even Hamas.

“These relationships will be used to destabilise the situation in other regions and avert the West’s attention from Ukraine.

“Israel Hamas benefits the Kremlin. I’m not saying it was master-minded there, but it has been very useful for Putin that the West’s attention has been moved on to Israel.

“The absolute worst mistake the West can do now is to stop supporting Ukraine.”

Two years into the war with Ukraine, which has been a shambolic experience for Putin, the autocrat is now desperately seeking to protect his legacy.

Russian scholar and journalist Dr James Rodgers warned that relations with Russia and the West will never improve as long as Putin remains in the Kremlin – which, he says, is for the foreseeable future.

He told The Sun: “The political system in Russia that Vladimir Putin has constructed over the last, almost quarter century is based around one man: him.”

Dr Rodgers explained that Putin altered the Russian constitution via national vote in 2020, which gave him the opportunity to reset two terms and thereby run again for president in 2024 and even in 2030.

That means he could theoretically stay in power until 2036, by which time he’d be 83 years old.

But with high approval ratings inside Russia, the reign of terror may only end when the tyrant dies.

Dr Rodgers said: “There are no challenges, and the system doesn’t allow for any opposition.

“I think that anybody watching how the Wagner Mutiny unfolded will have drawn the conclusions that they were supposed to: that is, if you publicly oppose Vladimir Putin, you are going to pay for it.

“And as Yevgeny Prigozhin found out, you are going to pay for it with your life.”

Putin has already served as president for longer than any other Russian ruler since Josef Stalin –  beating even Leonid Brezhnev’s 18-year tenure.

Opinion polls show the tyrant has approval ratings of 80 per cent inside Russia – despite his stalling invasion of Ukraine.

One anonymous Kremlin source said: “The decision has been made – he will run.”

While many foreign diplomats, spies and officials say they expect Putin to stay in power for life, there has until now been no specific confirmation of his plans to run in the election.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted Putin has yet to make any announcement on whether he will re-run.

He said: “The president has not made any statements.

“And the campaign has not been officially announced yet.”

Peskov said in September that if Putin decided to run, then no one would be able to compete with him.

The iconic image of Putin riding a horse topless has become an enduring image of his 'strongman' look

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The iconic image of Putin riding a horse topless has become an enduring image of his ‘strongman’ look
Yars ballistic missiles roll through Red Square during a Victory Day parade in Moscow

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Yars ballistic missiles roll through Red Square during a Victory Day parade in MoscowCredit: AP
Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery in the direction of Bakhmut as the war continues

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Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery in the direction of Bakhmut as the war continuesCredit: Getty
Putin is set to continue reaching out to Eastern powers to aid in his regime

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Putin is set to continue reaching out to Eastern powers to aid in his regimeCredit: AFP



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