Vladimir Putin has moved a nuclear fleet to Europe’s doorstep in what has been seen as an escalation of the Ukraine war. The Kremlin moved a fleet of 11 nuclear-capable jets more than 1,500 miles to the Arctic Circle. The weapons have been deployed to the Olenya airbase, close to the Finland and Norway borders.
The jets, including seven TU-160 ‘Blackjack’ strategic bombers and four TU-95 ‘Bear’ hydrogen bomb carriers, are capable of launching both long and short-range weapons.
They were picked up on new satellite images, spotted by Israeli intelligence officials.
As recently as mid-August, according to similar images, no such bombers sat at the base in the Kola Peninsula.
They are now fewer than 100 miles from Finland, which is in the process of joining Nato.
They are 115 miles from Norway, an existing member of the alliance.
This comes as the RAF prepares for Exercise Steadfast Noon, which will see up to 60 Nato aircraft taking part in training flights over Belgium, the North Sea and Britain.
The drill, beginning on Monday, has been coordinated to practise the use of US nuclear bombs based in Europe.
Putin’s latest show of force comes as the Russian leader has taken a number of humiliating losses in recent weeks.
Ukraine’s army has retaken more than 6,000 sq km of land since the start of September, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
The ISW said Russian forces are facing a “major operational defeat”.
Meanwhile, the US Defense Department estimated that as many as 80,000 Russian troops may have been killed or wounded since the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24 2022.
On September 21, Putin announced a “partial mobilisation” of Russian troops, the country’s first since World War 2.
Weapons expert Haish de Bretton-Gordon described this as a “sign of pure desperation”, explaining: “You supposedly have the most powerful army in the world, that is being degraded to a point where you’re dragging young men off the streets.”
He explained that Putin has been pushed to this point – which he described as a “tipping point” – partly as a result of all the training and weapons provided to the Ukrainian army by British and American forces.
He told Express.co.uk: “I think we’re seeing that all the training and advice we’ve given the Ukraine military is now paying dividends.
“Remember, the UK has been training the Ukraine army for a couple of years now, it’s not just since the war. I think that is now coming to fruition.
Mr de Bretton-Gordon added: “I think both the British and American Governments think we’re getting quite close to a tipping point now.
“Putin’s deck of cards is looking pretty wobbly at the moment.
“Not least, the Ukrainians have absolutely smashed them in the East and made them look very stupid.
“Quite apart from all the casualties that they’ve taken, this mobilisation announced is unbelievable. It is such a sign of desperation.
“You supposedly have the most powerful army in the world, that is being degraded to a point where you’re dragging young men off the streets. They’re not going willingly.”