An expected counter-attack on Russian troops in southern Ukraine has raised fears that the Kremlin could resort to using nuclear weapons, according to a British expert.
Ukrainian troops were said to gain strength near the occupied city of Kherson yesterday.
Air strikes destroyed several bridges, cutting off the remaining Russian forces.
As Russian military doctrine prescribes tactical nuclear weapons when its forces face defeat, concerns are growing that Vladimir Putin could use them.
Last night, Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a chemical weapons expert, said: “The specter of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine is undoubtedly a growing concern in NATO capitals.
With the tide appearing to be turning in southern Ukraine, Putin’s special operation may be about to unravel. At this stage, it is critical that the UK and US signal to the Kremlin that any use of nuclear weapons would cross a red line.”
Tactical nuclear missiles usually have a lethal radius of a mile and a half. But their shock waves and electromagnetic pulses extend further and pose an additional risk to life.
Western intelligence agencies were understood last night that they were closely monitoring the transit of these weapons into southern Ukraine.
These fears came to the fore when the number of Russian troops killed or wounded in the conflict was estimated to be 75,000 or higher.