A Russian newspaper has warned that Russian President Vladmir Putin is playing an "astonishingly risky game" in the Syrian conflict that could even lead to a Third World War.
Popular tabloid, Moskovsky Komsomolets, ran an article that suggested hostilities in Syria could spark a “direct military confrontation" between the nations of a similar scale to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
The warning comes after the US broke off talks and recalled its negotiators from Geneva. Meanwhile, Russia has suspended an agreement to destroy its weapons grade plutonium. Among the conditions it said were needed to continue the accord was an end to Ukraine-related sanctions.
In an article with the headline, "The stakes are higher than Syria,” the privately-owned tabloid, which has been criticised for sometimes sensational content, warned war could break out.
“Should Russia defend its ally or consider striking against the Americans, but this would definitely lead to a Third World War.
“Russia can win big in Syria but it can also lose big too. We must not forget that in Syria we are playing an astonishingly risky game.”
“According to our fighter pilots, the best we could do is shoot down a few coalition forces but this would mean a full-scale war,” it added.
Moskovsky Komsomolets has a circulation of almost one million, making it one of the most highly read newpapers in Russia.
Speaking about the disintegrating relations between the two countries, the head of the Russian International Affairs Council, Andrey Kortunov, told the BBC: "We had bad relations during the Cold War, but [...] the relationship was more or less stable, because we knew what to expect from each other, we knew the rules of the game.
"Today we don't have anything like that. So relations aren't stable. This is what makes this relationship dangerous."
Yet Leonid Radzikhovsky, a leading political analyst, told the broadcaster Russia would not risk a major war: "Putin is a megalomaniac [...] But he's not the kind of person to open a window on the 18th floor, declare 'I can fly' and jump out.”
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