Putin 'getting pressure from the left and the right' says Mark Watson
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International Affairs researcher Mark Watson believes Vladimir Putin is now under pressure from across the Russian political spectrum amid mounting dissatisfaction with the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine. Mr Watson went on to warn that the increasingly isolated Putin could turn to chemical weapons in a desperate bid to maintain power.
Mr Watson told Sky News Australia: “President Putin is now getting pressure from the left and the right and by that, I mean, there’s an anti-war movement that’s obviously suppressed inside Russia.
“But hundreds of thousands of people seem to have voted with their feet and headed for the exits.
“So on the left, there is an anti-war group. But equally, on the right, there are people who think the President isn’t prosecuting the wall with sufficient vigour.
“They want total war, they want total mobilisation, and it’s interesting to note that when the President made those armageddon statements or comments, he also mentioned not just nuclear weapons, but also chemical and biological weapons.
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“This opens the possibility that maybe President Putin looks at this and says, you know, tactical nuclear weapons is a step too far even for me, given the likely response and impact but chemical weapons, biological weapons as weapons of terror.
“Well, we’ve seen that elsewhere, we’ve seen it in Syria, you know, the sort of the First World War between warring states there.
“So there is a concern that he makes a calculation that okay, nukes are off the table, but what about these other weapons, these other really horrific weapons that could come into play and what would he expect the response to be from the West.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Ukraine had carried out “terrorist acts” against Russia and pledged to react forcefully if they continued.
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In televised remarks, Putin said Moscow had launched long-range missile attacks against Ukraine’s energy, military and communications infrastructure on Monday in retaliation for an attack on a vital bridge linking Russia to the annexed Crimean peninsula over the weekend.
“It is obvious that the Ukrainian secret services ordered, organised and carried out the terrorist attack aimed at destroying Russia’s critical civilian infrastructure,” Putin said of the bridge explosion.
Ukrainian officials were exultant after the blast but Kyiv has not claimed responsibility.
Cities across Ukraine were left without power or water and several were killed in Russian missile strikes on more than a dozen Ukrainian cities on Monday morning.
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Putin said Russia would respond “harshly” to any further attacks by Ukraine.
“If attempts continue to carry out terrorist acts on our territory, Russia’s responses will be harsh and in their scale will correspond to the level of threats created for the Russian Federation. No one should have any doubt about that,” Putin said.
The strikes came two days after an explosion damaged the only bridge over the Kerch Strait to the Crimea peninsula, which Putin on Sunday called an act of terrorism by Ukraine’s special services.
Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the blast on the bridge but has celebrated it. Senior Russian officials demanded a swift response from the Kremlin ahead of a meeting of Putin’s security council on Monday.
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