Vladimir Putin ‘a man in a cage he built himself’ – Ben Wallace lashes out

Putin advisors have 'misled' him over Ukraine conflict

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Mr Wallace, pointing at the losses among the Russian military, said Putin “is not the force he used to be”. Stressing the dictator has himself to blame for the situation his country is currently in, the Defence Secretary claimed in an interview with Sky News: “He is now a man in a cage he built himself.”

Amid NATO estimates that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers died in Moscow’s war, many of them inexperienced conscripts, Mr Wallace added: “His army is exhausted, he has suffered significant losses.

“The reputation of this great army of Russia has been trashed.

“He has not only got to live with the consequences of what he is doing to Ukraine, but he has also got to live with the consequences of what he has done to his own army.”

Alongside the damage done to Russia’s military, the country is facing a harrowing financial crisis as its economy will shrink by 10 percent in 2022, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said in its first economic forecast since the start of the war on February 24.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s economy is to shrink by 20 percent.

READ MORE: Putin’s Ukraine strategy dismantled by expert

The London-based lender warned on Thursday the conflict had triggered “the greatest supply shock since at least the early 1970s”.

It also said the impact would not be limited to Russia and Ukraine but severely affect economies far beyond the immediate area of the conflict.

The EBRD had previously been expecting growth of 3.5 percent for Ukraine and three percent for Russia.

Under the scenario that “a ceasefire is brokered within a couple of months, followed soon after by the start of a major reconstruction effort in Ukraine”, the multi-lateral bank’s prognosis sees Ukraine’s gross domestic product (GDP) should rebounding by 23 percent next year.

For Moscow — and surrounding nations — the forecast is more pessimistic.

The EBRD said: “Sanctions on Russia are expected to remain for the foreseeable future, condemning the Russian economy to stagnation in 2023, with negative spillovers for a number of neighbouring countries in eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

“With so much uncertainty, the bank intends to produce a further forecast in the next couple of months, taking into account further developments.”

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Europe aware of Putin’s ‘meaningless’ gas threat says expert

The sanctions so far imposed on Putin’s regime have been returned by an attempted cut on energy.

On Thursday, Moscow ordered its “unfriendly” customers to pay for gas in roubles, with Putin signing a decree that authorises the state-controlled Gazprombank, which the UK has imposed sanctions on, to open foreign currency and rouble accounts for the purchases.

The president said in a televised appearance: “To buy Russian gas, they need to open rouble accounts in Russian banks.

“It is from those accounts that gas will be paid for, starting 1 April. If such payments aren’t made, we will consider this a failure by the client to comply with its obligations.”

Details of Putin’s detail, however, suggest his threats are unlikely to materialise in an actual lack of energy.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said: “What I understood, but I may be wrong, is that the conversion of the payment … is an internal matter of the Russian Federation.”

Under the recently-signed decree, European buyers would pay in foreign currency and then authorise Gazprombank to make the conversion into roubles, which would then be used to formally purchase the gas.

While there are on the hand fears Putin could extend the rouble payment plan to include exports of oil, grain, fertilisers, coal, metals and other key commodities, his move hints at an administration more and more desperate to counter the West’s punishment for its actions.

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