Home News Russia to hold tactical nuclear weapons drills amid renewed tensions with West

Russia to hold tactical nuclear weapons drills amid renewed tensions with West


Russia said on Monday it would hold military drills with troops stationed near Ukraine to practice the potential use of battlefield nuclear weapons, as tensions between Russia and the West increased after two European leaders raised the possibility of more direct Western intervention in the war.

Such weapons, often called “tactical” weapons, are designed for battlefield use and have smaller warheads than “strategic” nuclear weapons aimed at cities. The Russian Defense Ministry said President Vladimir V. Putin had ordered exercises for missile, aviation and naval personnel to “increase the readiness of non-strategic nuclear forces to carry out combat missions.”

Russian officials claimed the order was a response to Western comments that the West might become more directly involved in the war in Ukraine. It’s the start of a week of widespread publicity for the Russian leader, whose inauguration is scheduled for Tuesday, followed by the annual presidential inauguration on Thursday. Victory day celebrationcommemorating the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

The announcement of the drills is Russia’s clearest warning in more than two years of its invasion of Ukraine that it could use tactical nuclear weapons there.

Western officials have long worried that Russia could deploy such weapons, especially if it suffered a serious setback on the battlefield.But Mr Putin be rejected As recently as March, he considered the issue, even as he regularly reminded the world of Russia’s vast nuclear arsenal as a way to curb Western military support for Ukraine.

The Defense Ministry said the exercise was held to “unconditionally ensure the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian state in response to provocative statements and threats by individual Western officials against the Russian Federation.”

The defense ministry said the exercise would involve troops from the Southern Military District, which covers Russian-occupied Ukraine and parts of Russia’s border with Ukraine. The exercise will be held “in the near future,” the statement said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov said the Western “threats” involved included a recent incident. interview The Economist published a speech by French President Emmanuel Macron in which the French leader reiterated his views Do not rule out sending ground troops to Ukraine.

Peskov also pointed to comments made by Britain’s top diplomat David Cameron last week, in which he said Ukraine was free to use British weapons to carry out attacks inside Russia – contradicting Western governments’ efforts to prevent such attacks. Typical policy runs counter to this. To avoid being drawn into the abyss of war.

“This is a new escalation of tensions – this is unprecedented,” Peskov told reporters on Monday. “Of course, this requires special attention and special measures.”

Pavel Podvig, a scholar who studies Russian nuclear forces, said in an interview that Russia has conducted such exercises before, but rarely made them public. This time, however, the purpose is to send a loud message, he said.

“This is a reaction to a specific statement, which is a signal that Russia has nuclear weapons,” Podvig said in a telephone interview.

Unlike strategic nuclear weapons, which are always ready for combat, non-strategic nuclear weapons are stored in warehouses far away from the bombers, missiles or ships that are supposed to carry them, Bodeweg said. He said that during the exercise, Russian army formations may practice how to deploy. But Podvig added that using them in the context of the war in Ukraine would make little sense.

“This weapons system exists to send a signal,” he said.

Putin has yet to make any public comments on the drills. On Tuesday, he is scheduled to take office for a fifth term as president.

Ivan Necheplenko Reporting from Batumi, Georgia, also contributed.

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