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A Russian nuclear missile rolls along Red Square during a military parade on June 24, 2020, in Moscow, Russia. Photo for illustrative purposes. (Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
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Russia has begun the first stage of drills simulating the launch of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Russia's Ministry of Defense announced on May 21.

The exercises, which were ordered on May 6 by Russian President Vladimir Putin, involve missile units in Russia's Southern Military District, including occupied Ukrainian territories.

The first stage of the drills will begin with the "combat use" of Iskander and Kinzhal ballistic missiles attached with nuclear warheads, equipping their launch, and "covertly advancing to the designated position in preparation for missile launches."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly made nuclear threats against Ukraine and the West since the beginning of the full-scale invasion in February 2022. The threats have failed to materialize, and Russia continues to wage its all-out war without its nuclear arsenal.

According to Russia's Defense Ministry, the drills are in response to "provocative statements and threats of individual Western officials against the Russian Federation" - although the ministry did not specify which Western officials were making threats or provocative statements.

According to Reuters, Moscow had previously labeled remarks made by French President Emmanuel Macron regarding the possibility of deployment of French troops to Ukraine, along with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron's affirmation that Ukraine could use weapons supplied by the U.K. to strike targets within Russia, as "militant statements."

In response to the announcement of the nuclear drills, the U.S. previously condemned Moscow's "irresponsible rhetoric" but said it sees no change in Russia's strategic posture.

Belarus will also be participating in the nuclear exercises alongside Russia.

The Financial Times reported in February, citing leaked documents, that Russia's doctrine for the usage of tactical nuclear weapons ranged "from an enemy incursion on Russian territory to more specific triggers, such as the destruction of 20% of Russia's strategic ballistic missile submarines."

CNN: US prepared ‘rigorously’ for potential Russian nuclear strike in Ukraine in 2022
Washington was “preparing rigorously” for a possible Russian nuclear strike in Ukraine in late 2022, which would have been the first nuclear attack in a war since the Hiroshima and Nagasaki 1945 bombings, CNN reported on March 9, citing two unnamed U.S. officials.


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