Russia Starts Tactical Nuclear Drills, in a Warning to Ukraine’s Allies

Russia sent a pointed reminder on Tuesday that it could use battlefield nuclear weapons in Ukraine, releasing video of its forces beginning exercises to practice their use, two weeks after President Vladimir V. Putin ordered the provocative drills.

Video released by the Russian Defense Ministry showed a caravan of military vehicles moving down a wooded road, as well as mobile Iskander missile systems — which can deliver conventional or nuclear explosives — getting into position to launch, with their warheads blurred out. The footage also showed a supersonic strategic bomber armed with missiles and an attack aircraft being prepared for takeoff.†

In a statement, the Russian Defense Ministry said the exercise, carried out near Ukraine, was aimed at preparing the force to use tactical nuclear weapons. The goal is to “unconditionally ensure the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian state in response to provocative statements and threats of individual Western officials,” the ministry said.

Upon announcing the drills earlier this month, the Kremlin suggested the move was a response to comments by President Emmanuel Macron of France, who refused to rule out sending French troops to Ukraine, and David Cameron, Britain’s top diplomat, who said Ukraine could use British weapons to strike inside Russia.

Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, at the time called their comments “unprecedented” and described them as a “completely new round of escalation” that merited a response by Moscow.

The exercises were the clearest warning yet from Russia that it might use nuclear weapons in the course of its war against Ukraine.

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