Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has sparked international outcry, as well as concerns of a global conflict. With western nations helping Ukraine in the form of military aid, and NATO looking to accept Finland and Sweden as new members, tensions between Moscow and the West have rarely ever been higher. Putin put his nuclear weapons forces on high alert in February – but it isn’t just the Russian president who gets to decide when a nuclear missile is launched. Russia expert and investigative journalist, Christo Grozev, said last week that there are “five hands” who must simultaneously press the buttons to launch the nuclear weapons, and if one were to refuse, Putin could be ousted from power as a result.
Speaking to Radio Liberty last week, he said: “Of course, there is the option that Putin himself gives the order to carry out some of these critical decisions, such as the use of nuclear weapons.”
He continued: “And this refusal will be the trigger, most likely, of a coup d’état, because after the refusal to comply with the order of the king, everything will go down very quickly.
“If Putin decides to give an order to use nuclear weapons, he must be sure that everyone along the chain will carry out this order.
“He understands five hands…must press the buttons in sequence.
“If one [person] does not comply, then this will be a signal of insubordination and perhaps even the physical death of Putin.
“So until he is sure that everyone will comply, he will not give this order.”
Reuters reported in 2020, citing a Russian nuclear policy document, that Putin always has a small briefcase by his side which “links him to the country’s nuclear forces”.
It enables the Russian president to communicate with his central military command and give them orders on what their next steps should be.
While Putin could order a nuclear attack, at least two other officials would have to back the decision, the report claimed.
Intelligence reports suggest that a nuclear strike is only possible once the Russian defence minister and chief of general staff give the green light.
They can do so by entering their own codes into their briefcases.
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Mr Grozev argues that no one would want to launch nuclear weapons while Putin’s future in the Kremlin is uncertain.
He added: “Whether Putin will be in power in three months is not clear to the security forces.
“Therefore, they cannot accept guarantees from him that he will ensure their safety.”
While Mr Grozev believes Putin could only have three months, a former NATO general thinks the Russian despot has a nine-month window to win the war in Ukraine.
Lieutenant General Konstantinos Loukopoulos was commenting on Ukraine’s stalled counteroffensive in the east as they wait for more weapons.
He believes it will take nine months to build up Ukraine’s arsenal, in which time Putin could take advantage.
He explained: “For Ukraine to absorb the weapons from the West and make them operational, form the right units, and train them, it needs eight, nine months. It can’t pull active units from the front to train them.
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“Under the present balance of forces, the general trend is in favour of the Russians. Right now nothing can change that.
“After a few months, with training of reserve units, there could be a [Ukrainian] strategic counteroffensive that could throw the Russians out.”
Experts feared at the start of the invasion that Russia could take control of Kyiv in a matter of days, but after Russian troops were frustrated for weeks, Putin has now focused his efforts on the east and south of Ukraine.
At the beginning of the invasion, Putin branded Luhansk and the Donbas regions as independent republics, and these areas have been at the centre of recent fighting.
Today, it has been reported that five civilians were killed and 12 injured as Russia bombarded more than 40 towns in the Donbas region.
Some in the West, including former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, have suggested Ukraine should cede territory in order to stop the war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has dismissed this idea, however, comparing Mr Kissinger’s comments to the approach allied forces took to Adolf Hitler before World War 2.
He said: “It seems that Mr Kissinger’s calendar is not 2022, but 1938, and he thought he was talking to an audience not in Davos, but in Munich of that time.
“Perhaps The New York Times in 1938 also wrote something similar. But now, let me remind you, it is 2022.
“Those who advise Ukraine to give something to Russia, these ‘great geopolitical figures’, never see ordinary people, ordinary Ukrainians, millions living on the territory they are proposing to exchange for an illusory peace.”