Mr Sweeney, who has been reporting extensively from Ukraine, believes Vladimir Putin’s troops are going to be hit hard by a massive Ukrainian counter-offensive aimed at taking back occupied territory. Discussing the Russian leader’s grip on power, Mr Sweeny believes the Kremlin’s setbacks in the war in Ukraine mean Putin is “much weaker than we think.”
Mr Sweeney told Times Radio: “My take on all of this is that I think the Ukrainian army is doing very well. I think the American Himar system is very good. They’ve managed to knock out the amount of artillery they’ve managed to knock out a tonne of artillery dumps.
“This autumn and winter, I think Ukrainians are going to push back hard and they’re defending their homes. So their morale is entirely different.”
“Therefore, I can see either this winter or this spring, a big defeat. For the Russian army, and then that will have a catastrophic effect on pushing his grip on power. “He’s much weaker than we think he is.”
On Wednesday, a Russian-installed official in Ukraine that Ukrainian forces had repeatedly used Western arms to attack Europe’s largest nuclear power plant which is now controlled by Russian forces.
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Yevgeny Balitsky, the head of the Russian-installed administration of the Zaporizhzhia region, said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was due to visit the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. The IAEA did not respond to a request for comment.
“We are ready to show how the Russian military is guarding the plant, and how Ukraine, which receives weapons from the West, uses those weapons including drones to attack the nuclear power plant,” Balitsky said.
The Zaporizhzhia plant, which has two of six reactors operating, has been the subject of repeated warnings from Ukraine, the West, and Russia. It was shelled on March 4.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday called Russia’s actions around the plant “the height of irresponsibility”, accusing Moscow of using it as a “nuclear shield” in attacks on Ukrainian forces.
Within days of Russia’s February 24 invasion, Putin put the country’s deterrence forces – which include nuclear arms – on high alert, citing what he called aggressive statements by NATO leaders and Western economic sanctions against Moscow.
Trofimov, a senior diplomat in the non-proliferation and arms control department of Russia’s foreign ministry, said Moscow would only use nuclear weapons in response to weapons of mass destruction or a conventional weapons attack that threatened the existence of the Russian state.
“None of these two hypothetical scenarios is relevant to the situation in Ukraine,” Trofimov told the U.N. conference to review the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
However, he accused NATO countries of a “fierce hybrid confrontation” against Russia that now “dangerously balances on the edge of open military clash.”