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Putin ‘totally miscalculated’ Russia’s ability to occupy Ukraine, Biden says

Joe Biden has said he believes Vladimir Putin is a “rational actor” who badly misjudged his prospects of occupying Ukraine, but does not believe he would resort to using a tactical nuclear weapon.

The US president told CNN on Tuesday that he believed his Russian counterpart had underestimated the ferocity of Ukrainian defiance in the face of invasion.

“I think … he thought he was going to be welcomed with open arms, that this was the home of Mother Russia in Kyiv, and that where he was going to be welcomed, and I think he just totally miscalculated,” Biden said.

“I think he is a rational actor who has miscalculated significantly.”

When asked by interviewer Jake Tapper how realistic he believed it would be for Putin to use a tactical nuclear weapon, Biden responded: “Well, I don’t think he will.”

Biden’s comments came as Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, accused Russia of launching a “second wave of terrorist attacks” in the wake of the blast that engulfed Crimea’s Kerch bridge. Zelenskiy said in a video address that 20 of 28 missiles launched by Russia on Tuesday were shot down, as well as “most” of the 15 combat drones deployed.

In smaller gains in announced by Ukraine’s Operational Command early on Wednesday, the army destroyed Russian equipment and an ammunition depot along Ukraine’s southern line. At least 23 Russian soldiers were killed, it said.

Earlier, Zelesnkiy asked G7 leaders for more air defence systems and a monitoring mission on the Belarusian border, as Russia continued to attack key infrastructure in Ukraine with fresh missile strikes.

In response to Zelenskiy’s speech, G7 leaders issued a statement saying they would “stand firmly with Ukraine for as long as it takes”.

The White House national security council spokesperson, John Kirby, said on Tuesday the US was working to expedite the shipment of Nasams air defences capable of engaging Russian cruise missiles. Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine reported on Tuesday that Ukraine had received a delivery of the German Iris-T air defence system.

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Biden’s administration is looking for what he has described as an “off-ramp” for Putin to de-escalate his invasion of Ukraine before he resorts to weapons of mass destruction.

Biden warned last week that the world risks “Armageddon” in unusually direct remarks about the dangers posed by Putin’s thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons to assist Russia’s faltering attempt to take over swathes of Ukraine.

Putin’s state of mind has been the subject of much debate after the Russian president suffered a series of recent military set-backs in the invasion, which he launched in February.

On Tuesday, Biden suggested that he believed Putin to be rational overall but questioned the language used when announcing the invasion of Ukraine back in February.

“If you listen to the speech he made after, when, that decision was being made, he talked about the whole idea of – he needed to be the leader of Russia that united all of Russian speakers. I mean, it’s just, I just think it’s irrational,” Biden said.

Energy exports appear to be helping Russia ride out western sanctions, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) saying on Tuesday a recession would be less severe than expected due to oil exports and relatively stable domestic demand.

Moscow has said inflation is easing and employment is virtually full, contradicting the predictions of many financial experts.

The IMF forecast the Russian economy to contract just 3.4% over the whole year. In June the IMF predicted an annual drop of 6%.

At crisis talks on Tuesday, G7 leaders avoided imposing a price cap on Russian oil –the country’s largest source of income.


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