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Russia Conducts Tactical Nuclear Drills Near Ukraine Border

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Russia has begun military exercises near Ukraine that simulate the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

These drills respond to perceived threats from Western officials about their increasing involvement in the conflict.

President Vladimir Putin ordered the drills earlier this month to warn the West not to escalate tensions. Russian officials were annoyed explicitly by comments from French President Emmanuel Macron, who suggested the possibility of sending European troops to Ukraine, and U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron, who supported Ukraine’s right to use Western-supplied weapons against Russia.

On Tuesday, the Russian defence ministry released footage showing trucks carrying missiles to a field with launch systems and troops preparing a bomber to carry a nuclear warhead.

The drills are taking place in Russia’s southern military district, based in Rostov-on-Don, which borders Ukraine and includes areas in Ukraine occupied by Russia.

The ministry described the drills as the first stage, involving the preparation of launch vehicles, transportation to launch sites, and loading planes with hypersonic Kinzhal missiles. Russia has several systems capable of delivering tactical nuclear warheads designed for battlefield use, unlike strategic warheads intended for larger targets.

Unlike strategic nuclear weapons, these tactical weapons have never been limited by arms control agreements between Russia and the U.S., and Russia has not disclosed their details.

In a recent speech commemorating the Soviet Union’s World War II victory, Putin stated that Russia’s nuclear weapons were “always at combat readiness.”

Still on Tuesday, a Russian general, Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov was arrested on bribery charges. Popov, who commanded the 58th Combined Arms, was fired last year after complaining of inadequate counter-battery fire and battlefield casualties.

His arrest coincides with a major reshuffle in the Russian defence ministry, which has seen the removal of longtime Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu and the arrest of two senior defence officials on corruption charges.

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