Putin orders nuclear drills to deter West, as Russia captures Ukrainian villages

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov cited comments by the French President Emmanuel Macron on possibly sending soldiers to Ukraine, as well as statements from the British and US Senate representatives.

Military and other special services are verifying reports about deployment of France’s foreign legion in Ukraine, Peskov added.

The defence ministry said the exercise was ordered by President Vladimir Putin and would test the readiness of non-strategic nuclear forces to perform combat missions.

The military drills will include practice for the preparation and deployment for use of non-strategic nuclear weapons, the defence ministry said. Missile formations in the Southern Military District and naval forces will take part.

“During the exercise, a set of measures will be carried out to practice the issues of preparation and use of non-strategic nuclear weapons,” the defence ministry said.

Ukraine’s military spy agency spokesperson said on Monday, that Russia’s plans to conduct tactical nuclear drills are nothing more than its continuing nuclear blackmail.

“We do not see here anything new, except for the information effect and statements … Nuclear blackmail is a constant practice of Putin’s regime,” Andriy Yusov told national TV.

Russia has the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.

The exercise is aimed at ensuring Russia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty “in response to provocative statements and threats by certain Western officials against the Russian Federation”, the ministry said.


Ukraine war two years on: disease, displacement and demands for aid

Ukraine war two years on: disease, displacement and demands for aid

In Russia’s frontier Belgorod region – under attack for months – governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said two moving vans and a passenger car “came under attack by Ukrainian kamikaze-drones.”

“Unfortunately, six people died at the scene from their wounds as a result of the explosion,” he said, adding that 35 others were wounded in the attack near the village of Berezyovka – some 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the Ukraine border.

Local authorities said the vehicles belonged to a meat production facility.

Gladkov said two children were among the wounded and that one man was in “serious condition” and undergoing surgery.

He published an image of a bus with blown windows and a damaged roof.

Belgorod has come under an increasing number of fatal Ukrainian drone and missile attacks.

Moscow has been making steady gains in eastern Ukraine and stepped up aerial attacks and shelling on border regions.

The defence ministry said its units had “liberated the village of Kotlyarivka in the Kharkiv region” and the “village of Soloviove in the Donetsk People’s Republic”.

Kyiv said overnight Russian strikes had targeted energy facilities in the northern Sumy region and northeastern Kharkiv region – both of which have seen increased attacks for weeks.

Rescuers working at the site of a missile attack that killed a child and two women in Lyptsi, Kharkiv. Russian forces said they captured two villages in the war-battered regions of Donetsk and Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. Photo by Handout/Telegram/@synegubov/AFP

Hundreds of thousands of homes were temporarily left without power in the aftermath of the strikes, the Ukrainian energy ministry said.

The interior ministry said Russian shelling had hit school facilities at night in the village of Zolochiv in the north-eastern Kharkiv region, wounding at least one person.

Putin’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine touched off the worst breakdown in relations between Russia and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, according to Russian and US diplomats.

Russia casts the war as a battle with the West, which Putin says ignored Moscow’s attempt at friendship after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union and sought to grab control of Ukraine while enlarging the Nato military alliance eastward.

The West and Ukraine say they will not rest until Russian forces are defeated, and cast the war as an imperial-style land grab aimed at forcing the country back into Moscow’s orbit.

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