Putin 'could use nuke to sow fear in Ukrainians' after Kharkiv rout

Putin could order a ‘nuclear strike to instil terror in Ukrainians and their allies’ following collapse country’s north-east, former NATO chief warns

  • Rose Gottemoeller, ex-deputy chief of NATO, warned Russia could nuke Ukraine 
  • Kremlin may ‘strike back in unpredictable ways’ following latest military disaster 
  • That could include nuking Black Sea or Ukrainian base as a show of power 
  • Aim would be to terrify Ukraine into capitulating, Ms Gottemoeller added 

Vladimir Putin may resort to using nuclear weapons in Ukraine to try and terrify Kyiv into capitulating, a former NATO leader has warned.

Rose Gottemoeller,  who was deputy secretary general of the alliance from 2016 to 2019, said the Russians may ‘strike back in really unpredictable ways’ after Ukraine inflicted a humiliating rout on their forces in the north.

Ms Gottemoeller said those strikes could include firing a nuclear weapon into the Black Sea or at a Ukrainian military base as a demonstration of might.

‘The goal would be to get the Ukrainians, in their terror, to capitulate,’ she added.

Russia could launch nuclear weapons at Ukraine as a show of might to try and force Kyiv to capitulate, a former NATO leader has warned 

Ms Gottemoeller said Russia is unlikely to use long-range nuclear weapons against the US, but will hope to deter Ukraine’s western allies from supporting its war effort.

Quizzed on the BBC’s Today Programme about how the West should respond, she added: ‘I stress that if [the Russians] do go down that route then we should not respond in a nuclear way.

‘[We] should bring our other considerable capacities to bear, whether that be a cyber response or conventional [weapons] response.’

Ukraine has been preparing for a nuclear disaster as its counter-offensive against Russia gathers pace

She also stressed that western military aid and training to Ukraine should continue, but that diplomatic channels should be kept open to the Kremlin.

Asked what the West should be telling the Russian leader, she said: ‘ We’ve done an excellent job sending a clear message to Moscow of: No impunity. 

‘We know what you’re up to, you’re not going to get away with it’

‘If there is a move towards weapons of mass destruction, and I have seen no indication so far that there is, but if there is then we need to get it out there and say to the Russians: “No impunity here”.’

Ms Gottemoeller was speaking after Ukraine launched a surprise counter-attack east out of the city of Kharkiv which led to a rout in Russian forces.

In the course of just a few days of fighting, and facing only token resistance, Ukrainian troops were able to drive Russia out of the entirety of the Kharkiv region.

Kyiv’s men are now in control of vital supply lines running into the eastern Donbas region, and are looking to press the advantage by attacking Russian positions there.

A second counter-attack towards the city of Kherson is also continuing to make progress, with some Russian troops said to be negotiating their surrender after running out of ammunition.

Oleksiy Arestovich, adviser to President Zelensky, said the military has captured so many Russians over recent days that it is running out of space to house them.

Military intelligence spokesman Andrey Yusov added that ‘significant’ numbers of Russian officers are among them.

Zelensky, speaking in a late-night address, said Ukraine’s armies had captured a total of 2,300 square miles in the east and south since the beginning of September.

That is about four times the size of Greater London, with Zelensky calling on Western allies to supply more weapons to help consolidate the gains.

Ukraine and the West must ‘strengthen cooperation to defeat Russian terror’, he said, while calling specifically for air defence systems to help protect civilian areas that Putin’s commanders have begun targeting as ‘revenge’.

Zelensky described the strikes as ‘a sign of the desperation of those who invented this war.’

He added: ‘This is how they react to the defeat of Russian troops in the Kharkiv region. They can’t do anything to our heroes on the battlefield and that’s why Russia is directing its vile strikes against civilian infrastructure.’ 

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