Vladimir Putin says threat of nuclear weapons is 'growing'
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Vladimir Putin’s admission that Russia is now at at war with Ukraine clearly indicates his plan to frame it as a conflict with a “hostile West”, a British defence expert has said. Tobias Ellwood, chairman of Parliament’s powerful defence committee, also warned against underestimating the Russian President’s determination to prevail.
Mr Ellwood was speaking in response to remarks made by Putin almost exactly 10 months since he ordered his invasion of Ukraine on February 24, during which, for the first time, he described what had followed as a “war”, adding that he wanted to end it “the sooner, the better”.
Given Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu this week outlined plans to expand the nation’s armed forces with at least 500,000 personnel, Mr Ellwood, the Tory MP for Bournemouth East, said it would be naive to think Putin was paving the way for a negotiated settlement.
Referring to yesterday’s trip to the US “by the 70-year-old’s Ukrainian opposite number, Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr Ellwood told Express.co.uk: “Putin is ratcheting up the rhetoric in response to Zelensky’s visit to Washington.
“We should remember Russia’s tolerance for hardship is far greater than ours.
“He may be struggling on the battlefield but he’s now framing this conflict as a war against a hostile West and will continue to cause economic misery through manipulation of oil, gas and grain supplies.”
Putin said: “Our goal is not to spin the flywheel of military conflict, but, on the contrary, to end this war.
“We will strive for an end to this, and the sooner the better, of course.”
His remarks were a departure from his previous insistence that the conflict was a “special operation”.
Earlier this week, during a meeting with his top military brass, Putin said Moscow would use lessons learned in the conflict to “develop our armed forces and strengthen the capability of our troops.”
Special emphasis would go to developing nuclear forces, he said, describing them as “the main guarantee of Russia’s sovereignty.”
He also also said the Russian military’s new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile would enter service shortly.
The Sarmat is intended to replace aging Soviet-built ballistic missiles and form the core of Russia’s nuclear forces.
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Putin has hailed its capacity to dodge missile defences.
Shoigu said the beefed-up Russian military will include 695,000 volunteer contract soldiers, 521,000 of whom would be recruited by the end of 2023.
The Russian military had about 400,000 contract soldiers as part of its one million-member military before the fighting in Ukraine began.
Mr Zelensky, who met with US President Joe Biden during his visit, returned home with a $1.8 billion package of military aid including a Patriot missile battery and precision guided bombs for fighter jets.
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