The U.S. warns that Russia can use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, while Turkey’s allies turn away from Russia. Meanwhile in Italy, although the right are set to win the election, Berlusconi was called "Putin’s general", and Google has discovered that Russian hackers are working with the FRU.
The risk of a niclear attack on Ukraine: the threat is growing
The United States for several months has been sending private communications to Moscow warning Russia’s leadership of the grave consequences that would follow the use of a nuclear weapon, The Washington Post writes.
The newspaper warns that Russia continues to escalate its rhetoric about possible nuclear weapons use against Ukraine.
Putin’s most recent comments suggested Russia is considering using a nuclear weapon in Ukraine to force Kyiv and its backers into submission, said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association.
"The consequences of even a so-called ‘limited nuclear war’ would be absolutely catastrophic," he stressed.
Vadym Skibitskyi, deputy head of Ukrainian military intelligence,also doesn’t rule out the possibility that Russia will use nuclear weapons.
"The blast of a tactical nuclear weapon will have an impact not only in Ukraine but the Black Sea region," he warned.
How the U.S. would respond to a nuclear strike
The best option for the U.S., if faced with a Russian nuclear strike in Ukraine, might be to conduct a limited conventional strike on the Russian forces or bases that launched the attack, Matthew Kroenig, a director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council believes.
"It would be calibrated to send a message that this is not a major war coming, this is a limited strike," argues Kroenig.
At the same time, even a limited conventional strike by the U.S. military against Russia would be viewed by many in Washington as risking a full-scale world war.
James M. Acton, co-director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said it doesn’t make sense at this point to game out U.S. responses.
According to him, there is a wide range of possible Russian actions — from an underground nuclear test that doesn’t hurt anyone to a large-scale explosion that kills tens of thousands of civilians.
Nuclear weapons were also discussed at the U.N. General Assembly: the U.S. stepped up efforts to warn the world of the threat. In particular, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking at a U.N. Security Council meeting, said Russia’s reckless nuclear threats must stop immediately.
Russia loses support from Turkey and India
Signs have emerged that some countries willing to tolerate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are losing patience, The Guardian notes.
This is shown by the cool response of Turkey, India and China to the announcement of the co-called "referendums" on joining the Russian Federation in four occupied Ukrainian regions.
Ankara issued a sharp rebuke, saying in a statement that it was concerned by attempts to stage unilateral referendums.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said he had always supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine. He appeared to have been blindsided by mobilization of troops in Russia: the Turkish president said that he was under the impression that Vladimir Putin was in the mood to make concessions.
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, has also told Putin to his face that this was not a time for war.
While gradually improving its relations with the U.S., India is taking small steps away from neutrality. It has condemned war crimes committed in Bucha and voted for the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to be allowed to address the UN security council by video link.
China still often makes contradictory statements, but the statements coming from the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson this week hardly endorsed Putin’s gamble.
The right are set to win in Italy: will they be able to form a government?
Italy's rightist bloc led by Giorgia Meloni is expected to win Sunday's election but voter sentiment has shifted in the last two weeks and surprises should not be ruled out, Reuters writes.
According to seven pollsters interviewed by Reuters, the 5-Star Movement appears to have made significant progress while the rightist League is struggling. Matteo Salvini's League is the main ally of Meloni's Brothers of Italy party.
The latter has probably consolidated its position as the most popular force ahead of Enrico Letta's center-left Democratic Party, the pollsters said.
Most pollsters believe that the probability the right will win a majority in both houses of parliament and form the next government has declined somewhat due to 5-Star's rise, but it remains by far the most likely outcome.
The pollsters’ estimation of the probability of a conservative win ranges from 60% to 100%. At the time of the poll blackout, most surveys put Brothers of Italy at around 24% and the combined conservative bloc, also comprising the League and Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, on about 46%.
Berlusconi: Putin only wanted to replace Ukraine’s government
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has said that Russian president Vladimir Putin was "pushed" into invading Ukraine, Reuters writes. According to him, Putin wanted to put "decent people" in charge of Kyiv. This statement drew fierce criticism just ahead of Italy's election.
The Italian leader is a long-time friend of Putin and his comments are likely to alarm Western allies.
"Putin was pushed by the Russian people, by his party, by his ministers to come up with this special operation," Berlusconi said.
He also asserted that Moscow’s decision to invade was made in response to an appeal by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Russia's plan was originally to conquer Kyiv "in a week", replace the government with "decent people", and get out "in another week," the politician said.
Facing widespread condemnation, Berlusconi released a statement on September 23 saying his views had been "oversimplified".
"The aggression against Ukraine is unjustifiable and unacceptable, (Forza Italia's) position is clear. We will always be with the EU and NATO," he emphasized.
The opponents have already compared Berlusconi to Putin's general because of his statements.
Google discovered that Russian hackers coordinate with Russia’s military intelligence
A growing body of evidence suggests that pro-Russian hackers and online activists are working with the country’s military intelligence agency, according to researchers at Google, The Wall Street Journal writes.
Officials in the U.S. and Europe have warned throughout the war that Russian hackers could lash out against Ukraine’s allies by targeting critical infrastructure and governments with cyberattacks.
Over the past few months, Google’s Mandiant cybersecurity group has observed apparent coordination between pro-Russian hacking groups and cyber break-ins by Russia’s military intelligence agency, or GRU.
Three pro-Russian hacktivist groups have been involved, according to Mandiant. They are called XakNet Team, Infoccentr and CyberArmyofRussia_Reborn.