UKRAINE is ready to strike back at war-hungry Vladimir Putin with missiles that could hit Russian cities and nuclear plants, a senior diplomat has warned.
It came as the Russian president ratcheted up tensions with Nato by boasting his "unstoppable" Mach 9 hypersonic nukes will be deployed in the New Year.
Ukraine is on high alert after Putin moved almost 100,00 troops to the border.
Spy chiefs claim they have evidence a coup attempt is due this week and the Kremlin is planning a full-scale invasion in January.
Former foreign minister Vladimir Ohryzko warned Ukraine is ready to use any means at its disposal to defend itself.
He told broadcaster Channel 5: “War is war – if we are threatened with attacks on infrastructure, so can we.
"If today we do not have the opportunity to reach Moscow with missile weapons, then there is the ability and willingness to reach other cities that are within the reach of the Ukrainian missile forces, and which can cover very serious infrastructure facilities including nuclear power plants.”
Ukraine does not currently have any long or medium-range rockets after it destroyed the nuclear missiles and warheads it inherited from the Soviet Union.
It is developing two new ballistic missiles but they are not yet in service after budget cuts delayed the programs.
That means its primary ground attack missile is the ageing Soviet-era Tochka, which has a reported range of around 80 miles.
It also has brand new Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles, which have a range of 175 miles and could be used to hit targets on land.
Major cities including Voronezh, Rostov-on-Don and Krasnodar could theoretically be within reach.
Mr Ohryzko – who is no longer a member of government – also made wild suggestions Nato should "go all the way" and invade Russia to divide its territory.
He said the US and Europe would make huge profits and quickly recoup the hundreds of billions they might spend on overthrowing the regime.
He said: “Imagine that a collection of independent ten to 15 non-nuclear nations is created in place of the current Russian Federation. Who will benefit from this? Everybody wins.”
'FIVE MINUTES TO LAUNCH'
Meanwhile Mr Putin inflamed war fears today by announcing the deadly Zircon hypersonic missiles are ready to be deployed in early 2022.
He said: "We have now tested it successfully, and from the beginning of the year we will have a new sea-based hypersonic missile in service."
He also boasted the 6,600mph nukes – said to be able to evade any defences – will be ready to launch at just five minutes' notice.
Tensions were stoked further by Belarus's president Lukashenko, who offered to host Russian nukes on its territory if Nato deploys weapons "east of Germany".
Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg had earlier said US nukes would have to be moved to another country such as Poland if Germany decided it no longer wanted them there.
On Sunday, Mr Stoltenberg warned “there will be consequences” for Russia if it uses force against Ukraine.
It is thought Nato allies would avoid joining any conflict, and would instead look to impose fresh economic sanctions as they did after Putin annexed Crimea in 2014.
Mr Putin has dismissed fears of an invasion and suggested troop movements are only to deter Kiev from a renewed offensive against Kremlin-backed rebels in the breakaway Donbass region.
But one of his key advisers warned Russia would attack unless Nato agrees to ban UKraine from the alliance.
Last week Kiev confirmed it has used US-made Javelin anti-tank missiles against rebels for the first time.
They are seen as a major threat to an invading force, along with Turkish-made TB2 drones that can blitz heavy armour from the air.
Earlier this week, Russia tanks in Crimea were seen sporting bizarre anti-missile "umbrellas" mounted above their turrets.
The screens appear to be experimental and it is not clear how much protection they would give, reports Forbes.
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