The Kremlin is "normalising" the use of nuclear weapons to help Russians feel more comfortable when they are unleashed in Ukraine, parts of the Russian media believe.
It comes as the country's biggest newspaper, pro-Kremlin Komsomolskaya Pravda [KP], hinted that the impact of a nuke would be "minimal."
However, some believe Vladimir Putin is using the media as a ploy to make his people less shocked by the explosive blitz.
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The impact would reportedly be less harsh than the Chernobyl nuclear blast in 1986.
"This seems to be an attempt to fool Russians into thinking this is a small step, not a giant leap towards Armageddon,” said a Moscow media expert.
Nuclear weapons expert Igor Nikulin said the chances of such use by Russia were now 50-50 in Ukraine.
“If the West does not calm down and reason with its vassals, we will have to reason with them,” he said.
“If they decide to launch a large-scale offensive and we do not have the strength to repel it in some area, we will have to calm them by other means.”
Igor Nikulin is a former member of the UN Disarmament Commission and ex-adviser to the UN Secretary General.
But he made it sound as if there would be nothing abnormal if Putin pulled the nuclear trigger using tactical rather than strategic weapons.
“A tactical nuclear charge gives a small shock wave,” he said. "And the radioactive contamination is also relatively small.
“The main damage is from ionising radiation which burns out all electronics.
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“All this American equipment that was delivered to Kyiv will stop working.
“And we will be able to …successfully attack.”
He likened it to an attack on Moscow suburb Butovo.
“A simple example – if you blow up such a charge in Moscow's Southern Butovo, the windows in Northern Butovo won't even crack.”
He told KP: “On islands like Bikini, where the Americans and the French detonated an atomic bomb, rats reproduce perfectly there.
“From the point of view of radiation contamination, the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant gave a greater negative effect than the likely impact of the use of the nuclear weapons now being discussed.”
He was asked about a scenario where Putin launched tactical nuclear strikes on the Kherson region where Kyiv has made recent headway in claiming back illegally invaded land.
“People will die within a radius of several kilometres,” he said.
Military analyst Mikhail Tymoshenko, a retired Russian colonel, told the same newspaper that the radius of damage from such a Putin tactical nuclear missile would be little more than one kilometre.
“The civilian population should act on the principle of if you're warned, it's your responsibility to shelter,” he said.
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