KHERSON, Ukraine – Russia on Wednesday rehearsed its response to a nuclear strike, conducting exercises involving nuclear submarines, strategic bombers and ballistic missiles. It is a time of heightened tensions over Russia’s “dirty bomb” claims against Ukraine. .
Russian President Vladimir Putin remotely observed the annual exercise called “Grom” or “Thunder”. It uses test launches to put Moscow’s nuclear forces through its paces in a show of force designed to deter and intimidate its adversaries.
Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu told Putin that the exercise was an exercise in “conducting a large-scale nuclear attack by a strategic strike force in response to an enemy nuclear attack”.
Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov added that tests of nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles from land and sea and cruise missile launches from the air by TU-95MS strategic bombers were successfully conducted.
Putin later told a meeting with former Soviet intelligence officials that the potential for conflict in the world remained high.
“Our collective security faces new risks and challenges,” he said.
The Pentagon has notified Russia of its intention to conduct exercises as NATO rehearses its own use of Europe-based US nuclear bombs in the annual ‘Stable Noon’ war game. said the day before.
Washington said the notice reduced the risk of miscalculation at a time when Russia was using “reckless” nuclear rhetoric, while Western officials noted the alignment between Russia’s training and preparations for an actual nuclear attack. You show confidence in your ability to discern the difference.
But Russia is lagging behind in Ukraine, accusing Ukraine of planning to detonate a “dirty bomb” laced with radioactive material, a claim Putin repeated Wednesday.
Kyiv and the West say there is no evidence of an indictment and that the warning appears aimed at either escalating tensions over the war in Ukraine or justifying some sort of Russian battlefield escalation.
On the ground in Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry said Russian forces had repulsed attempted Ukrainian advances in the south and east.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said the wet weather and the nature of the terrain made Kyiv’s counteroffensive in the southern Kherson region more difficult than in the northeast, which pushed Russia back last month.
Reznikov, who said he did not believe Putin would use nuclear weapons, told media that Russian forces were using water supply channels as trenches in Kherson, an agricultural province in northern Crimea annexed by Moscow in 2014. Told.
Ukrainian forces assigned to part of the front line north of Kherson said instead of being ready to withdraw, Russian forces were strengthening the lines around the capital.
“In the media they say that the Russians are afraid and will withdraw their troops, but that’s not true,” said the commander of the unit, who asked to quote his nickname Nikifor.
“They are fighting well and attacking our troops.
“In this area, they are very active. They carry out artillery fire every day, dig trenches and prepare defenses,” said Nikifor, who could not locate the Mykolaiv Oblast under Ukrainian military regulations. said.
“They use artillery and tanks,” he continued, sitting at the command post in the semi-abandoned village.
A Ukrainian officer said radio intercepts showed newly mobilized Russian conscripts were deployed on the opposite side of their front, and after a notable drop earlier this month, Russia had recently said artillery fire was increasing.
The unit holds a network of well-fortified trenches dug into the tree line opposite the Russian fortifications, and recent rains have turned the dirt tracks that access them into mud. I was.
Intermittent artillery fire echoed from both sides, and towers of smoke rose in the distance.
At one point, a Ukrainian helicopter gunship flew low over the field, firing rockets at Russian positions and spitting flares to distract the heat-seeking anti-aircraft rockets fired.
Western officials say Moscow may try to use low-yield “tactical” nuclear weapons in Ukraine to force Kyiv to surrender at a time when Ukrainian pressure on Russian forces around Kherson threatens a major Moscow defeat. It expresses concern that no
US President Joe Biden warned Russia on Tuesday that such a move would be an “incredibly grave mistake.”
Putin, who also chaired Wednesday’s Security Council meeting, said Russia has the right to defend its territory with any weapons in its arsenal, including the world’s largest nuclear stockpile, but not tactical nuclear weapons. Not specifically mentioned.
Russian officials have said the government’s nuclear umbrella has been extended to cover four regions of Ukraine that Putin claims to have annexed, a move that Kyiv and the West have denied.
A day after Russia aired its “dirty bomb” claims to the UN Security Council, Shoigu delivered a video briefing to his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe, conveying Moscow’s concerns.
Shoigu, a close ally of Putin, held a similar video conference with his Indian counterpart.
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh told Shoigu that no side should use nuclear weapons.
Singh has called for an early resolution of the dispute through diplomacy, but after eight months of war, that now seems unlikely.
There was no immediate information from Beijing about what Wei Fenghe told Shoigu.