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A growing number of senior Kremlin insiders are said to feel Vladimir Putin‘s invasion of Ukraine was a ‘catastrophic’ mistake, and fear the Russian strongman could resort to using nuclear weapons as Moscow’s position worsens.

The insiders said Putin is dismissing all criticism by officials who warn of the damaging political and economic cost of his war plan, which they fear could set Russia back for years amid growing military losses and crippling Western sanctions.

The ten sources, who wished to remain anonymous, told Bloomberg that they believe Putin will continue with his invasion and the move will ‘doom’ Russia to years of isolation and tension with other countries. 

The Kremlin insiders warned Russia will be left with a crippled economy and limited global influence. They also voiced fears that Putin could turn to the drastic measure of using nuclear weapons against his enemies if his invasion of Ukraine fails.

The warning comes as Moscow suffered another devastating blow today after its force’s death toll rose to 20,900, according to Kyiv estimates.

After weeks of having their assaults on Kyiv and other cities thwarted at every turn by battling Ukrainian troops, Putin’s commanders retreated and are now refocusing their efforts on the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, along with other regions of Ukraine’s eastern flank.

A growing number of senior Kremlin insiders are said to feel Vladimir Putin's (pictured today) invasion of Ukraine was a 'catastrophic' mistake that will set Russia back for years amid growing military losses and crippling sanctions imposed by the West

A growing number of senior Kremlin insiders are said to feel Vladimir Putin's (pictured today) invasion of Ukraine was a 'catastrophic' mistake that will set Russia back for years amid growing military losses and crippling sanctions imposed by the West

A growing number of senior Kremlin insiders are said to feel Vladimir Putin’s (pictured today) invasion of Ukraine was a ‘catastrophic’ mistake that will set Russia back for years amid growing military losses and crippling sanctions imposed by the West

The warning comes as Putin's invasion of Ukraine suffered another devastating blow after his force's death toll rose to 20,900 according to Kyiv estimates. Pictured: A damaged Russian tank near Kyiv on Tuesday

The warning comes as Putin's invasion of Ukraine suffered another devastating blow after his force's death toll rose to 20,900 according to Kyiv estimates. Pictured: A damaged Russian tank near Kyiv on Tuesday

The warning comes as Putin’s invasion of Ukraine suffered another devastating blow after his force’s death toll rose to 20,900 according to Kyiv estimates. Pictured: A damaged Russian tank near Kyiv on Tuesday

Despite mobilising a force of between 150,000 and 200,000 Russian troops at the start of the invasion on February 24, Moscow failed to anticipate anything other than weak resistance by the Ukrainian forces – likely owing to Russian intelligence failures.

Since Russia’s invasion, Western countries have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia’s corporate and financial system.

Putin has claimed Russia’s economy and financial system withstood the blow from what he called the Western sanctions ‘blitz’ and insisted the move would backfire by driving up prices for essentials such as fertiliser, leading to food shortages and increased migration to the West. 

Despite Putin’s faltering invasion, which saw Russian troops retreat from Ukrainian cities and instead focus on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, the leader said his war effort is going to plan as he vowed Russia would triumph in all of its ‘noble’ war aims.

But Kremlin insiders, who are fearful of speaking out, said officials have told Putin that the economic impact of the sanctions, which have targeted the Kremlin, Russian oligarchs and the financial system, will be devastating.

Yet Putin has stuck to his line and said that whilst Russia pays the cost of the sanctions, he was forced by the West to wage a war against Ukraine, the sources said.

A Kremlin insider last month said that ‘no one calculated’ the West’s strict financial sanctions, such as the banning of Russians banks from the use of the SWIFT banking system because Putin had kept his invasion plans secret from most of the leadership.

Andrei Soldatov, an expert on the Russian security services, said frustration inside the Federal Security Service about the faltering invasion is growing. Sources said they had expected the fighting would last a few weeks. The war is now in its seventh week.

Russian military vehicles move on a highway in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces near Mariupol on Monday

Russian military vehicles move on a highway in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces near Mariupol on Monday

Russian military vehicles move on a highway in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces near Mariupol on Monday

Ukrainian servicemen inspect a destroyed Russian tank in Rusaniv, in the outskirts of Kyiv

Ukrainian servicemen inspect a destroyed Russian tank in Rusaniv, in the outskirts of Kyiv

Ukrainian servicemen inspect a destroyed Russian tank in Rusaniv, in the outskirts of Kyiv

Only one veteran Kremlin has quit so far. Anatoly Chubais, an economist and special envoy to international organisations for Putin since 2020, quit and left Russia with no intention to return allegedly in a protest over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.   

Chubais has not yet said why he resigned nor where he intends to go after leaving Russia, and hung up the phone when contacted by Reuters – though sources have said he is opposed to the war in Ukraine.

But many within the Kremlin are too fearful to quit and leave their positions. 

‘Putin has built his regime mainly on stoking public support, which has given him the means to control the elite,’ Tatiana Stanovaya of political consultant R.Politik, told Bloomberg.

‘There’s no room for disagreement or discussion, everyone must just get on with it and implement the president’s orders and as long as Putin keeps the situation under control, people will follow him.’ 

The senior powerbrokers in Moscow political circles and in military, security and civil services are said to have been largely kept in the dark about Putin’s invasion plans. Most are thought to have believed that the build up of Russian forces on Ukraine’s borders was a bluff to force concessions, and a war would never happen. 

The government was only aware that Putin planned to recognise the two Kremlin-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, formulating its economic policies on the understanding that sanctions would be relatively light.

The revelations from the ten Kremlin insiders came after Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov warned yesterday that Putin is not considering using nuclear weapons ‘at this stage’ of its invasion – as Russia announced it was entering a new phase of its so-called ‘special operation’ that will focus on seizing the east of the country.

In an interview in which he parroted Putin‘s propaganda, Lavrov blamed the US, the West and NATO expansion for Moscow’s brutal military actions. 

When asked by India Today whether Russia had any intention of using nuclear weapons, Lavrov said: ‘At this stage, we are considering the option of conventional weapons only,’ according to Russia’s RIA state news agency.

Russian foreign minister Russia Sergei Lavrov (pictured speaking last week in Moscow) has warned his country is not considering using nuclear weapons 'at this stage' of its invasion

Russian foreign minister Russia Sergei Lavrov (pictured speaking last week in Moscow) has warned his country is not considering using nuclear weapons 'at this stage' of its invasion

Russian foreign minister Russia Sergei Lavrov (pictured speaking last week in Moscow) has warned his country is not considering using nuclear weapons ‘at this stage’ of its invasion

Lavrov, a long-time Kremlin mouthpiece and staunch ally of Putin, said in late January that Russia would not invade its neighbour. On February 24, less a month after his comments, Putin ordered Moscow’s troops into Ukraine.

Days after, Putin put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert, and threatened NATO allies with ‘consequences greater than any you have faced in history’ should they intervene in the Ukraine conflict.

This raised fears that the Russian leader would be prepared to use nuclear weapons in the conflict, something no country has done since the Second World War.

‘The current events are rooted in the US and West’s desire to rule the world,’ Lavrov told the Indian English-language news publication on Tuesday.

‘They wanted to show the world there would be no multipolarity, only unipolarity, and created a springboard [Ukraine] against us [Russia] at our borders. They pumped arms into Ukraine.

‘The real reason [for the war] is the complacency of most countries after World War II,’ he opined. ‘They violated their promises to Russian leadership and started moving NATO eastward after the Soviet Union disappeared. They said it’s a defensive alliance and not a threat to Russian security.’

Russia has given a variety of justifications for its invasion, such as NATO expansionism and claims that it is ‘denazifying’ the country – which has a Jewish president and where the far-right enjoy little to no public support in politics.

Lavrov also denied that Russian forces have committed war crimes, saying that Moscow’s forces are only targeting military infrastructure – despite mounting evidence on the contrary.

‘Our army has only been targeting military infrastructure and not civilians. The Ukrainian army has been using civilians as human shields.’

He added: ‘The West is not paying attention to our facts. They are placing attention on false things like what they said about Bucha. 

‘They brought up Bucha three days after the Ukrainian mayor of Bucha proudly said the city was back under their control.’

Lavrov’s claim, pushed several times by Kremlin officials since Ukrainian authorities liberated Bucha from Russia’s forces, has been debunked.

Satellite imagery from commercial provider Maxar Technologies, first reported by The New York Times, proved the bodies had been there for weeks.

Since then, hundreds more have been found, and eyewitness accounts have spoken of Russian soldiers carrying out brutal rapes and executions. In some cases, civilians had their hands tied behind their backs by Russian soldiers before they were shot.

Lavrov’s comments on nuclear weapons came after Vladimir Putin sent up strategic nuclear-capable bombers into the skies over Western Russia on Monday, amid huge pressure on the Kremlin over the calamitous sinking of the  Moskva flagship in the Black Sea last week. 

Vladimir Putin sent up his strategic bombers in the skies over Western Russia today amid huge pressure on the Kremlin over the sinking of the Moskva flagship in the Black Sea

Vladimir Putin sent up his strategic bombers in the skies over Western Russia today amid huge pressure on the Kremlin over the sinking of the Moskva flagship in the Black Sea

The planes (pictured) are believed to be Russian Tu-95s, known as Bears, and appeared to be flying in striking distance of Ukraine

The planes (pictured) are believed to be Russian Tu-95s, known as Bears, and appeared to be flying in striking distance of Ukraine

Vladimir Putin sent up his strategic bombers in the skies over Western Russia today amid huge pressure on the Kremlin over the sinking of the Moskva flagship in the Black Sea. The planes are believed to be Russian Tu-95s, known as Bears, and appeared to be flying in striking distance of Ukraine

Videos from Monday and Saturday caught four of the aircraft – used to carry nuclear bombs – over the Kaluga region, between Moscow and the Ukrainian border. 

The planes were believed to be Russian Tu-95s, known as Bears, and appeared to be flying in striking distance of Ukraine. The Defence Ministry in Moscow had not immediately announced the purpose of the mission.

The Tu-95s have been used a number of times to strike targets in Ukraine with non-nuclear weapons, notably Kh-55 and Kh-101 air-launched cruise missiles. The super-loud Tu-95 is the only propeller-powered strategic bomber still in operational use today, and the plane first flew 70 years ago. 

Putin deployed the Tu-95s to buzz Britain at moments of high tension, for example in February this year when the Royal Air Force scrambled Typhoon fighters to escort two Bears off northern Scotland.

Russia is one of nine countries in possession of nuclear warheads, in addition to the US, China, the UK, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel.

With a believed 6,257 warheads, Russia has more nuclear warheads than any other nation. The US is the only country that comes close to Russia’s numbers, with 5,550.

Source: Daily Mail

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