Vladimir Putin ‘not scared of using nuclear weapons and could launch strike by spring 2023’

Vladimir Putin is not scared of using nuclear weapons and could launch a strike as soon as next spring, a top British general is warning.

Sir Richard Barrons issued the ‘Doomsday Clock’-style prediction as he said the Russian despot is “likely” to use the devastating weapons if he realises he’s being beaten in Ukraine.

Decorated commander Sir Richard, 63, who retired in 2016, said in the Sunday Times (07.08.22): “It would be the first use of nuclear weapons for 77 years, breaking an enormous taboo, but this is not inconceivable to Russians if the ends justify it in their eyes.

“A broader Ukrainian offensive and mobilisation expected as soon as next spring could lead to battlefield successes and the liberation of land seized by Russia.

“This might create other risks. If Putin senses defeat, will he be tempted to use tactical nuclear weapons to change reality on the battlefield?”

Sir Richard urged the West to take seriously the fact 69-year-old Putin – rumoured to be on mood-altering steroids for conditions from cancer to Parkinson’s disease – is now likely to “employ tactical nuclear weapons” if he faces being pushed back in Ukraine.

He added a Russian nuclear strike in Ukraine would not be using city-destroying bombs which could completely level the likes of London or New York.

Russian doctrine instead demands smaller weapons for battlefield use, less powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Americans to end World War Two.

Even the comparably ‘small’ weapons – dubbed the Fat Man and Little Boy – wiped out more than 200,000 people and wrought radiation horrors.

But Sir Richard stressed wider consequences of the nuclear taboo being shattered after three quarters of a century could spark major geopolitical tension.

It comes as Ukraine faces a “long, bitter winter” as the war rolls on.

Putin had hoped his war would be over in a matter of days, but it is still grinding on five months after Putin’s invasion in February.