Putin to be dealt Black Sea revenge as West plots how to hit back

Vladimir Putin's actions likened to Hitler by Ukrainian MP

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The sinking of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is one way the West might hit back if Moscow were to use a nuclear device, an expert has said. Russian President Vladimir Putin will proclaim the annexation of four Ukrainian regions today (September 30) in a ceremony in Red Square, Moscow. The move comes after referendums held over four days in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions in the south of Ukraine were condemned around the world.

Prime Minister Liz Truss described the move, which is the biggest annexation in Europe since Adolf Hitler, as something Britain will never accept. US President Joe Biden said the United States would never recognise Russia’s claims on Ukraine’s territory.

Russian officials have said the four regions will fall under Moscow’s nuclear umbrella once they have been formally incorporated into Russia. Putin recently repeated a threat to use non-conventional weapons, adding he was not bluffing.

David H. Dunn, professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham, said while the US has declared use of non-conventional weapons will be met by a resounding and overwhelming response, it has not outlined specific measures.

He told Express.co.uk: “What I imagine is going on is in public they are being general, but in private I imagine a lot of signalling is going on.”

Professor Dunn said if Russia were to use a nuclear weapon on the battlefield in Ukraine it could lead the West to respond in a number of ways.

He said: “Talk of responses there are interesting. A massive cyber attack could be launched or Microsoft and Apple could be ordered to switch off software. That could have a massive impact.

“Also, sinking Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. That would allow you to attack Russia without attacking Russian territory. The threat of that has been made to Russia’s military privately almost certainly. [The West will have also said in private to the Russians] do you think you can beat us given how poorly you performed against Ukraine? A lot is going on behind the scenes.”

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet earlier this month relocated some of its submarines away from Sevastopol in Crimea, according to the MoD.


It came after reports the Fleet was struggling to exercise effective control of the seas.

Professor Dunn explained the Russians may test fire a nuclear weapon high over the Arctic instead of targeting Ukraine.

He said: “The West would then use that test to pressure India, China and other Asian countries to stop supporting Putin, saying he’s dangerous. There would be massive public condemnation and further sanctions. But it would not require a military response.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has sought to rally international support against the annexations in a series of calls with foreign leaders, including Ms Truss.

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Mr Zelensky has said “pseudo-referendums” on annexation by Russia will destroy any chance of peace talks between the two countries.

Professor Dunn said Ukraine has no choice but to fight on despite Putin’s nuclear threat.

He said: “Ukraine would not be deterred by Putin’s nuclear threat. Putin saying he’s not bluffing shows his bluffing has been called out. He can say it as much as he likes. The West is not responding.

“There are signs Russia wants to take the whole of Ukraine. It’s not just about those eastern regions. There are reports ammunition is being shipped to Belarus. Scare supplies of weapons shipped to Belarus. There is no way Ukraine can respond in the way Russia demands, to stop fighting in the east. It would allow [the Russians] to reform and regroup and come after the rest of the country.”

Putin’s annexation ceremony will be held in one of the Kremlin’s grandest halls with the pro-Russian figures Moscow considers to be leaders of the four Ukrainian regions.

A big rock concert will also be held in Moscow’s Red Square where a tribune with giant video screens has already been set up, with billboards proclaiming “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson – Russia!”

Professor Dunn described the annexation as extraordinary and a sign of Putin trying to salvage things after Russian troops suffered heavy defeats and lost swathes of territory in the north east of Ukraine.

He said: “He is trying to portray it as the West needing to back down otherwise the situation will be made worse. Effectively, what he’s saying is, ‘I demand the right to annex territory of another sovereign state… and if you do anything… I reserve the right to nuke you.

“What’s interesting is he’s doing it such fanfare. He’s sending a message to European and American publics, hoping they will be scared and put pressure on their governments to back off and end the support they are giving to Ukraine.

“It’s performative politics designed to make an impact on Western public opinion in a way that breaks the resolve of the West. By contrast, the West hasn’t responded in any rhetorical manner to the posture of the Russians.”

Professor Dunn added Putin is applying the same playbook he used when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, but this time it would not work.

He said: “The goals on both sides are completely incompatible. Ukraine is fighting for survival. Russia wants to destroy Ukraine. There is no common ground.”

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