Putin is said to be furious about Western sanctions and intel officials fear he may target Ukrainian civilians as revenge, report says
- Western powers have enacted punishing sanctions on
Russiain response to the Ukraineinvasion.
- Intelligence officials worry about Putin's response to those sanctions, The Washington Post reported.
European intelligence officials told The Post that the harder Russia is punished by sanctions, the more severe Putin's response may be, and that he may be compelled to "set an example" by striking at more civilian targets in Ukraine.
The US, UK, EU, and other countries including Switzerland have levied harsh economic sanctions on Russian companies and entities, including Putin himself, in response to the Ukraine invasion.
According to multiple reports, much of the intelligence on Putin's mental state is circumstantial, and intelligence agencies lack direct access to Putin's inner circle.
One FBI report cited by The Post said that a source heard from another source that Putin was furious about the sanctions and believes they were a disproportionate response to his decision to invade Ukraine.
The accounts tally with other intelligence assessments from US officials, indicating that Putin may have been caught off balance by the concerted Western response to the Ukraine invasion.
The New York Times reported that US intelligence officials believe that Putin became isolated as he closed himself off from all but a small group of advisors during the COVID-19 pandemic and that has impacted his mental state.
Putin on Sunday placed Russia's nuclear arsenal at a state of heightened readiness in response to the sanctions, and warned of severe consequences for nations interfering in the Ukraine invasion. Both the UK and US said the nuclear alert was mere posturing.
Russia had expected a swift victory over Ukraine, experts said, but the invasion has stalled in the face of staunch resistance by Ukraine's forces and residents.
Western officials warned earlier this week that Putin was growing furious over the Ukrainian resistance to his invasion, and could launch a more aggressive attack in response.
In recent days, Russia has launched a series of attacks on civilian targets in towns and cities including Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city.
The UN said Wednesday that more than 400 civilians have been killed in the fighting so far, and half a million refugees have flooded from Ukraine into neighboring countries.
Putin's invasion of Ukraine has galvanized NATO allies and even usually neutral nations to enact a series of punishing sanctions against Russia that has seen the value of the ruble collapse.
A key question facing world leaders is whether Putin will respond to economic pressure by de-escalating or lashing out.
There have been long queues at ATM machines in Russia as citizens seek to withdraw their cash, with Russian banks, businesses, and individuals close to Putin targeted by the sanctions, and key exports to Russia limited. Oligarchs close to Putin have been hit with individual sanctions.
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