Should he need to, President Putin could extend mobilisation and drag out the war. Russia is a nuclear power and he has indicated he would be prepared, if necessary, to use nuclear weapons to protect Russia and cling on to occupied Ukrainian land. “We will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff,” he warned.Kyiv believes Russia is also seeking to depose the pro-European government in Moldova, where Russian troops are based in the breakaway region of Transnistria bordering Ukraine.Has Putin been damaged?President Putin, 70, has sought to distance himself from military failures, but his authority, at least outside Russia, has been shredded and he makes few trips beyond its borders.At home, Russia’s economy on the surface appears to have weathered a series of Western sanctions, although its budget deficit has soared and oil and gas revenue has fallen dramatically.Any attempt to gauge his popularity is fraught with difficulty.Dissent in Russia is highly risky, with jail sentences handed out for anyone spreading “fake news” about the Russian military. Those opposing Russia’s leadership have either fled or, as with main opposition figure Alexei Navalny, been thrown into prison.
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