Russia starts nuclear drills near Ukraine in response to Western threats

The drills are designed to test "the readiness of personnel and equipment of non-strategic nuclear weapons combat units". (Photo/Reuters)

Russia has announced the start of tactical nuclear weapons drills close to Ukraine, in what it said was a response to Western "threats".

Russia's Defence Ministry said on Tuesday the drills were taking place in its Southern Military District, which borders and includes parts of Ukraine that Moscow claims to have annexed. It did not specify exactly where.

Throughout its two-year offensive on Ukraine, Moscow has repeatedly talked up its arsenal of nuclear weapons and its readiness to deploy them if it senses an existential threat.

The West has accused Russia of irresponsible nuclear sabre-rattling.

The drills are designed to test "the readiness of personnel and equipment of non-strategic nuclear weapons combat units to respond and to unconditionally ensure the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian state," the ministry said in a statement.

It added they were a "response to provocative statements and threats by certain Western officials."

Hypersonic Kinzhal missiles

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the drills earlier this month after a series of Western statements on the Ukraine conflict drew scorn in Moscow.

Russian officials pointed to comments by French President Emmanuel Macron about NATO countries needing to not rule out deploying troops to Ukraine and British Foreign Minister David Cameron saying Kiev had the right to fire Western missiles at Russian territory.

Russia's Southern Military District is the command centre for its offensive on Ukraine. It is headquartered in Rostov-on-Don, 60 kilometres from the border with Ukraine. It includes parts of the country Russia says it has illegally annexed the Crimea, Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions.

The Defence Ministry published footage showing trucks carrying missiles to a field where launch systems were prepared and troops at an airfield readying a bomber to carry a nuclear warhead.

It said this was the "first stage" of the drills, which involved practising the loading of launch vehicles, driving to designated launch sites and loading planes with hypersonic Kinzhal missiles.

It did not indicate whether any test firings had taken place.

Tactical nuclear weapons, also known as non-strategic nuclear weapons, are designed for use on the battlefield and can be delivered via missiles.


Source: TRT