Fears Putin could declare full war on Ukraine or resort to nukes as Kherson look set to fall


Fears are growing inside Russia that Vladimir Putin is preparing to declare all-out war on Ukraine, amid speculation the increasingly desperate despot could resort to a nuclear show of force over the Black Sea as his invasion fails. 

Putin will today hold an emergency national security meeting, with the Russian senate ordered to sit late so they can rubber-stamp any directives. 

At the same time his new commander in Ukraine – Sergei Surovikin, dubbed ‘General Armageddon’ – appears to be preparing the ground for a retreat from the city of Kherson.

General Surovikin on Tuesday said the situation in the southern Ukrainian city is ‘tense’ and that people living there will be ‘resettled’ in order ‘to protect the lives of civilians and our service members’. ‘We are not excluding the most difficult decisions,’ he added.

Evacuations got under way today as Vladimir Saldo, the Russian official overseeing occupied Kherson, said up to 60,000 people will be moved over the next six days – suggesting the city could fall within a week.  

The administration is also moving, Saldo added, while vowing Russia would ‘fight to the death’ to regain full control.

The defeat would be the most humiliating that Putin has suffered yet, driving fears over how he might respond.

Escalating the ‘special military operation’ into an all-out war would hand the Russian leader powers to close the country’s borders, declare martial law, and strong-arm more men into the armed forces. 

Meanwhile news that UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had been called to an emergency meeting at the Pentagon in the US yesterday sparked more fears that Putin could be preparing some kind of nuclear show of force, potentially including the first open-air detonation of an atomic weapon since the 1960s.

Armed forced minister James Heappey did little to dampen those fears when he said the discussions Mr Wallace is having are ‘beyond belief’. 

Experts have speculated that Putin may detonate a nuke at a remote testing ground or above the Black Sea to prove that Russia’s huge but ageing stockpile of warheads still works. 

Fears are growing that Putin could escalate in Ukraine – potentially by declaring all-out war or by ordering a nuclear show of force – as his top commander lays the groundwork for retreat in Kherson (file image, destruction in Mariupol) 

Experts have speculated that Putin could carry out the first open-air test of a nuclear weapon since the 1960s - either in a remote region of Russia or over the Black Sea - in an attempt to terrify Ukraine and its Western backers

Experts have speculated that Putin could carry out the first open-air test of a nuclear weapon since the 1960s – either in a remote region of Russia or over the Black Sea – in an attempt to terrify Ukraine and its Western backers

Civilians begin boarding coaches and ferries out of the Russian-occupied city of Kherson after Kremlin officials ordered an evacuation, with Ukrainian troops advancing nearby

Civilians begin boarding coaches and ferries out of the Russian-occupied city of Kherson after Kremlin officials ordered an evacuation, with Ukrainian troops advancing nearby

Civilians began fleeing as Putin's new commander in Ukraine appeared to be laying the groundwork for a retreat, saying the situation is 'tense' and 'the most difficult decisions' may be required

Civilians began fleeing as Putin’s new commander in Ukraine appeared to be laying the groundwork for a retreat, saying the situation is ‘tense’ and ‘the most difficult decisions’ may be required

Boats arrive to help civilians living under Russian occupation evacuate from Kherson, with officials saying 60,000 have been told to leave within the next six days

Boats arrive to help civilians living under Russian occupation evacuate from Kherson, with officials saying 60,000 have been told to leave within the next six days

Russian president Vladimir Putin has warned he is prepared to use nukes to defend Russia's 'territorial integrity'

Head of Russia's armed forces Sergei Surovikin, known as 'General Armageddon' has been increasing missile attacks on Ukraine's energy facilities

Vladimir Putin (left) is due to hold an emergency security council meeting today as his top commander in Ukraine, General Surovikin (right) appears to be preparing to retreat from Kherson, sparking fears the Russian leader could look to escalate 

Liz Truss retreated over defence cuts yesterday after senior ministers threatened to quit

By Jason Groves for the Daily Mail

New Chancellor Jeremy Hunt had refused to commit to the Prime Minister’s pledge to raise defence spending to 3 per cent of GDP by the end of the decade.

Mr Hunt said ‘everything’ was on the table as part of a brutal round of spending cuts to save £40billion by the end of the month. But Downing Street backed down yesterday after armed forces minister James Heappey warned both he and the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace would resign if it was dropped.

The pledge, which experts say could cost £157billion, is now one of the few Government promises protected from the spending review. No 10 refused to say whether Miss Truss would even stand by her pledge this month to raise pensions in line with inflation.

Mr Heappey said the increased defence spending was essential to meet the security threats facing the UK.

Increasing the unease is the fact that Russia is expected to carry out an annual test of its nuclear weapons within days in an exercise dubbed ‘Grom’, but has not yet notified Washington when it will take place.

Under treaties governing the use of nuclear weapons, Russia is supposed to inform the US before carrying out nuclear drills to avoid the risk that a test is mistaken for an actual launch – which could prompt a potentially-devastating response. Likewise, the US is supposed to give notice to Moscow.

‘No, we have not received any type of official notification,’ a US military official said on Monday.

At the same time, Nato is carrying out exercises involving its own nuclear forces with long-range bombers, fighters and refuelling planes currently in the skies above Belgium, the North Sea and the UK.

‘The exercise, which runs until 30 October, is a routine, recurring training activity and it is not linked to any current world events,’ the alliance declared on its webpage last week. 

Officially, Putin’s security meeting today is to discuss ‘neutralising threats to national security in the migration sphere’ but within Russia there is speculation that the main topic is likely to be the war in Ukraine.

Increasing fears is that fact that the session is due to take place remotely – meaning Putin may not be in Moscow and could instead be holed up in his nuclear bunker in the Ural Mountains.

But Foreign Secretary James Cleverly sought to calm anxieties on Wednesday by suggesting Mr Wallace was actually in Washington to talk about Russia’s latest tactics in Ukraine – using suicide drones and missiles to blow up power plants – and not nukes.

Mr Cleverly said the talks Mr Wallace was involved in were a ‘normal and regular part of what is frankly a very abnormal and perverse situation’.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘The Defence Secretary is in Washington DC to discuss shared security concerns, including Ukraine. He will be visiting his counterpart at the Pentagon and senior figures at the White House’.

A spokesman for Lloyd Austin, the US secretary of defence, said they discussed the ‘ongoing support to Ukraine by our two nations, as well as the continued importance of transatlantic and regional security cooperation in light of Russia’s attack in Ukraine’.

Mr Wallace’s emergency talks came ahead of a delivery of new Nato systems which will bolster Ukraine’s air defences against strikes on civilians from kamikaze drones and missiles. 

Russia has been firing an increased number of rockets and drones at Ukraine following several embarrassing weeks of retreats on the battlefield.

The use of drones, believed to be from Iran, may suggest their stockpiles of ‘high-precision, long-range, significantly sized warheads’ are running low.  

Sources in Tehran told Reuters that Iran is planning to send more drones and surface-to-surface missiles to Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Putin’s targeting of power supplies, a crime under the laws of armed conflict, was ‘causing massive blackouts’ with hospitals forced on to back-up generators.

‘No space left for negotiations with Putin’s regime,’ Mr Zelensky said

‘The terrorist state will not change anything for itself with such actions.

‘It will only confirm its destructive and murderous essence, for which it will certainly be held to account.’

The energy facilities that have been targeted recently include in the city of Zhytomyr, west of the capital Kyiv, which was left without electricity and water, as well as in Kyiv and Dnipro. 

Russia has changed tactics in Ukraine over the last week, using missiles and drones to bomb power stations and water supplies in an apparent attempt to break the will of ordinary Ukrainians to continue the war

Russia has changed tactics in Ukraine over the last week, using missiles and drones to bomb power stations and water supplies in an apparent attempt to break the will of ordinary Ukrainians to continue the war 

Rescuers sort through the rubble of a residential building hit by Russian kamikaze drones as explosions rock Ukraine's capital during a drone attack in the early morning on October 17

Rescuers sort through the rubble of a residential building hit by Russian kamikaze drones as explosions rock Ukraine’s capital during a drone attack in the early morning on October 17

Iran has been supplying Russia with 'kamikaze drones' as their stocks on missiles are thought to be running low

Iran has been supplying Russia with ‘kamikaze drones’ as their stocks on missiles are thought to be running low

Mr Cleverly said: ‘Putin failed to capture Ukrainian towns and cities with tanks, now he tries cowardly drone attacks.

‘These are the desperate acts of a man losing a war on the battlefield. It’s why we sent air defence missiles. He won’t break the Ukrainians or our resolve to stand with them.’

The advanced medium-range air-to-air missile rockets are able to knock cruise missiles and drones such as Iran’s Shahed-136 out of the sky. 

Ukraine will also receive a fleet of drones from Nato to be used to gather intelligence.

The Ministry of Defence wrote in its daily intelligence briefing that ‘a key objective of this strike campaign is to cause widespread damage to Ukraine’s energy distribution network’.

‘As Russia has suffered battlefield setbacks since August, it has highly likely gained a greater willingness to strike civilian infrastructure,’ it added.

Vladimir Putin’s blitz plunges Ukraine into darkness: Missile attacks knock out one in three power stations as war-torn nation faces winter

By James Franey in Kyiv for the Daily Mail

Ukraine’s energy supplies are at critical lows after Russian strikes, Kyiv warned last night.

A missile and drone blitz has knocked out a third of the country’s power stations in just eight days as winter approaches, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

Further drone attacks on energy supplies left parts of the capital without electricity for several hours yesterday. At least three residents were killed.

Officials said 1,162 towns or villages across 16 Ukrainian regions were now without power.

Mr Zelensky said Vladimir Putin’s targeting of power supplies, a crime under the laws of armed conflict, was ‘causing massive blackouts’ with hospitals forced on to back-up generators.

Further drone attacks on energy supplies left parts of the capital without electricity for several hours yesterday. At least three residents were killed. A storage facility is seen after it was hit by a Russian drone near Mykolaiv

Further drone attacks on energy supplies left parts of the capital without electricity for several hours yesterday. At least three residents were killed. A storage facility is seen after it was hit by a Russian drone near Mykolaiv

‘No space left for negotiations with Putin’s regime,’ Mr Zelensky said, once again ruling out the prospect of peace talks with the Kremlin despot. ‘The terrorist state will not change anything for itself with such actions,’ he added.

‘It will only confirm its destructive and murderous essence, for which it will certainly be held to account.’

The main power station in the central city of Dnipro, the gateway to Ukraine’s partially occupied industrial heartland of the Donbas, was also hit. And Zhytomyr, home to military bases and key industries west of Kyiv, was left without energy.

Mayor Serhiy Sukhomlyn said 150,000 of its 250,000 residents were still without electricity last night.

Pavlo Raboschuk, a 33-year-old computer repairman in Zhytomyr, said he was ready ‘for a tough and dark winter’ with dehydrated foods, warm clothes and batteries stockpiled at home. ‘Only swear words come to mind,’ he added.

Iryna Kolodzynska, a school headmistress, managed to have students back at their desks within 30 minutes of the air raid all-clear. ‘We must not break down,’ she said. ‘There are regions that suffered much more from the war than we did.’

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said: ‘The situation is critical now across the country because our regions are dependent on one another. The whole country should prepare for electricity, water and heating outages.’

Oleksandr Khorunzhyi, a spokesman for Ukraine’s emergency services, said more than 70 people have been killed and 240 injured since Russia’s assault began last Monday.

In the north east, Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, some 25 miles from the border with Russia, was hit with eight missiles. The UK Ministry of Defence wrote in its daily intelligence briefing that ‘a key objective of this strike campaign is to cause widespread damage to Ukraine’s energy distribution network’. 

‘As Russia has suffered battlefield setbacks since August, it has highly likely gained a greater willingness to strike civilian infrastructure,’ the MoD declared.

Officials said 1,162 towns or villages across 16 Ukrainian regions were now without power. Mr Zelensky said Vladimir Putin¿s targeting of power supplies, a crime under the laws of armed conflict, was ¿causing massive blackouts¿ with hospitals forced on to back-up generators

Officials said 1,162 towns or villages across 16 Ukrainian regions were now without power. Mr Zelensky said Vladimir Putin’s targeting of power supplies, a crime under the laws of armed conflict, was ‘causing massive blackouts’ with hospitals forced on to back-up generators

A senior Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said kamikaze drones supplied to Moscow by Iran were being used because Russian missiles were running out.

‘Our assessment is that the ability for the Russians to continue with these saturating barrages of precision weapons is getting to the point now where this will be unsustainable,’ the source said.

But pro-Kremlin Telegram channels lavished praise on Putin for attacking energy infrastructure in civilian areas. Moscow denied it was using Iranian drones. ‘Russian tech is being used,’ Putin’s chief propagandist Dmitry Peskov said.



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