Russia plans tactical nuclear drills near Ukraine amid rising tensions

Russia plans tactical nuclear drills near Ukraine amid rising tensions
Vony Razom

In an escalating war of words, Russia has declared plans to conduct missile drills simulating the use of tactical nuclear weapons near Ukraine. The move comes in response to recent statements from Western officials that the Kremlin deems provocative.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, accused French President Emmanuel Macron and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron of a "new round of escalation" through their comments. Macron refused to rule out deploying French troops if requested by Ukraine, while Cameron asserted Ukraine's right to strike within Russian territory using British weapons.

Russia's Foreign Ministry condemned Cameron's "hostile outburst" as contradicting prior British assurances about the long-range missiles sent to Ukraine. It warned that British military assets in Ukraine and beyond could be targeted if those weapons are used to attack Russia. Macron's remarks were interpreted as "readiness for direct confrontation."

Both the British and French ambassadors were summoned in Moscow on Monday, as President Vladimir Putin ordered the tactical nuclear drills to take place "in the near future." Involving missile formations and air and naval forces, the exercises aim to simulate the use of small nuclear warheads designed for battlefield or limited strikes without widespread fallout.

While downplayed by Ukrainian intelligence as "nuclear blackmail," NATO labeled Russia's announcement as "dangerous and irresponsible" but vowed vigilance. European leaders urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to help de-escalate Russia's "irresponsible" nuclear threats during his meeting with Macron in Paris.

The saber-rattling coincides with Putin's inauguration for a fifth presidential term on Tuesday. Ukraine has said it will no longer recognize him as legitimate and called on other nations to follow suit, though France plans to send its ambassador to the ceremony.

As tensions flare, the prospect of tactical nuclear drills near an active war zone has raised grave concerns over potential escalation in the protracted conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

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