VLADIMIR Putin is feared to be plotting to detonate a nuclear weapon in the Black Sea – and this is how he could use the devastating device.
Russia is being boxed into a corner over the failing war in Ukraine and so Western officials reportedly fear the Kremlin could be considering an atomic show of force.
UK defence secretary Ben Wallace dashed to Washington DC yesterday for crisis talks amid concern Vlad’s hand could be hanging over the red button.
It is feared that he could fire a nuke using the sea – which is bordered by Russia, Ukraine and Georgia along with Nato nations, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania – as a testing range.
Putin has been wildly swinging his nuclear sabre as he repeatedly threatens to go nuclear over the disastrous war in Ukraine.
But what options would Putin have on the table if he decided to light the nuclear fuse in the Black Sea?
Putin likely has three realistic choices – a detonation over the sea, a blast beneath the sea, or potentially blowing up a remote island.
And in a chilling warning, The Sun Online previously revealed a nuke in the Black Sea could cause a toxic gas cloud and a even tsunamis.
It comes as RAF Typhoons accompanied by a spy plane yesterday which flew close to the annexed region of Crimea.
The world is now watching with bated breath to see if Vlad fires his “warning shot” as the nuclear fears ratchet up.
MISSILE LAUNCH FROM RUSSIA
Putin could carry out his nuclear test by firing a missile from Russia over the Black Sea.
The weapon would fly to a remote area of the sea before exploding in what would be the first nuke test by Russia in 30 years.
Nuclear weapons have not been tested in former Soviet Union territory since October 24, 1990.
Putin has plenty of missiles in his arsenal which could be used to deliver such a weapon.
And these range from small short range weapons like the Iskander to colossal intercontinental ballistic missiles such as the Satan 2.
It is believed however that any nuclear test by Russia would be a low yield “tactical nuke” rather than a colossal city-destroying device.
FIRED BY A SUBMARINE
Another option by Putin could be to launch a nuclear missile from one of his many submarines.
It is understood the Black Sea Fleet submarines are all of the Kilo class – which cannot fire nuclear weapons.
Putin however could bring in another secretive vessel from somewhere else in Russia waters for the missile launch.
And it is unknown if there are any such secretive boats are currently in the Black Sea.
But earlier this year a nuke missile sub – the Borei-A class sub, the Knyaz Vladimir – was painted dubbed with a “Z”, the symbol of Putin’s invasion.
BLOWING UP SNAKE ISLAND
It has even been suggested that Vlad could try to use a remote island in the Black Sea as a staging ground for a nuclear explosion.
And such a contender previously raised was Snake Island, a symbol of resistance for Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldiers stationed on the island famously told a Russian warship to “go f*** yourself” in a radio message earlier in the war.
The island is small and unremarkable – but is considered to key strategic and symbolic value.
Dr. Rod Thornton, a security expert at King’s College London, suggested the outpost during an interview with Forbes.
It is understood Russia withdrew from Snake Island back in July and the site has since been retaken by Ukraine.
And a less realistic and more drastic option could be for Putin to use a nuclear drone.
Putin has been showing off his massive submarine the Belgorod, the biggest in his arsenal and one that can be armed with the “Poseidon”.
Belgorod is understood to be capable of carrying up to eight Poseidon nuclear drone torpedos.
The torpedos are 79foot long and carry a nuclear warhead – shooting towards enemy targets beneath the waves at speeds of around 70 knots (80mph).
Weeks ago there was speculation Putin could be preparing to test one of these weapons.
But the sub is known to be operating in the far north of Russia – and was just this week snapped returning to port in Severodvinsk.
LAUNCHED BY PLANE
Russia could also test a nuke by firing a nuclear cruise missile from a warplane.
The plane would carry the weapon from its base before firing the missile towards the Black Sea.
Kh-55SM cruise missiles – which can be nuclear armed – can be equipped by strategic bombers such as the Tu-95 “Bears” and the Tu-160 “Blackjacks”.
It is estimated the maximum yield of such weapons is 200 kilotons – some 13 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima.
Other nuclear cruise missiles in Putin’s arsenal includes the hypersonic Kh-47M2 “Dagger” – which has seen non-nuclear versions used in Ukraine.
But a leading expert has warned detonating a nuclear bomb in the Black Sea could be a very bad idea.
Professor Viorel Badescu, a physicist and engineer the University of Bucharest previously spoke to The Sun Online as he laid out “through the eyes of a scientist” the potentially horrifying consequences.
Prof Badescu said he doesn’t see the logic of Russia opting for the sea as a testing range – and was highly sceptical over whether Putin would use such a strategy for such a show of force.
But he soberly spoke of the possible consequences if Vlad did go ahead with such a plan, with various reports the Russian president is becoming increasingly rash.
He told The Sun Online: “Two different phenomena that may affect the coastal regions start simultaneously at the place of the nuclear explosion.
“First, the initial water cavity constitutes the source for a
“Second, the [gas] expelled into the atmosphere – which is denser than air – ‘falls’ with a lower speed than the falling water and finally creates a gaseous ‘cloud’ or ‘blanket’ on the sea surface.”
Prof Badescu wrote his initial paper in 2006 titled: “Poison Effects of Asteroid Impacts or Nuclear Explosions in the Western Regions of the Black Sea”.
It compares the dangers of both impacts from space and nukes, which have comparable effects with the amount of energy being transferred into the sea.
What makes the Black Sea unique is the high level of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in the water, being the world’s largest natural reservoir of the chemical compound.
The gas – which smells like rotten eggs – is toxic to humans and animals when inhaled and in high doses can cause death.
People suffering exposure can be left unable to breath – and in high enough doses the chemical can rot people’s brains.
So with this in mind, a nuclear bomb hitting the sea would release this chemicals into the air and could be blown towards coastal regions
The other threat from a very large nuclear blast – tsunamis – could see waves of up to 6.5ft crash into the shores of the Black Sea.
But a more realistic option for Russia would be a smaller device, such as the 2 megaton nuke believed to be on the Poseidon nuclear towards.
And this would lead to a tsunami more likely of around 3ft high.
Prof Badescu said the effects of a nuke test would be “very small” if a bomb was detonated in the middle of the Black Sea.
Russia has been dangling the threat of nuclear weapons over Ukraine as its forces continue to be pushed back.
Putin’s war has become a slow and brutal quagmire – one which has seen the Russians change tactics, moving from attempts at surgical strikes to savage, indiscriminate attacks on civilians.
Moscow has red lines in its doctrine about when to use nukes – but they are softer than those in the West.
Russia is thought to have around 2,000 nuclear weapons in their arsenal in the form of small yield missiles, torpedoes and artillery shells.
Moscow’s war doctrine is believed to be open to using nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict as an intimidation tactic – and use of such a weapon must be signed off personally by Putin.
The tactic became known as “escalate to de-escalate”.
Nato is closely monitoring Russia, with reports of Vlad’s biggest nuclear submarine on the move and a convoy linked to a nuke unit spotted heading towards Ukraine.
And it seems Putin is also escalating his hybrid war on Europe, with Russia the prime suspect in attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea.
With winter looming over Ukraine and the Russian defeats mounting, the world awaits with baited breath to see what Vlad will do next and the what response – if any – there will be from the West.