Russian missile drills…near Ukraine?

Russia has said stated that it will hold drills that will include practice for the use of tactical nuclear weapons, days after top European leaders voiced stronger military support for Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said recent statements by French President Emmanuel Macron and the British Foreign Secretary David Cameron constituted a „completely new round of escalation of tension”.

Last week, Macron refused to rule out potentially deploying French troops, should Kiiv request them, while Lord Cameron said that Ukraine had the right to use British weapons for strikes within Russia.

Both the British and the French ambassadors in Moscow were summoned on Monday.

The move marks an escalation of tensions that have risen since French President Emmanuel Macron said last week that his country would consider sending ground troops to Ukraine if Kyiv requests backup. A day later, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said Ukraine could use British weapons against targets inside Russia if it wanted.

Russian officials condemned both statements and warned Moscow would retaliate to what they called a “dangerous escalation trend”. Moscow has long warned that conflict with NATO would become inevitable if European members of the military alliance sent in their soldiers to fight in Ukraine.

The tactical nuclear weapons drills announced on Monday were ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to TASS news agency.

They were expected to take place „in the near future” and would involve missile formations as well as air and naval forces.

Tactical nuclear weapons are small nuclear warheads and delivery systems intended for use on the battlefield, or for a limited strike.

They are designed to destroy enemy targets in a specific area without causing widespread radioactive fallout.

Strategic nuclear weapons, on the other hand, are large and designed to be fired at a long range – for example, between continents. Russia holds regular drills with strategic nuclear weapons.

In April, Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko said „several dozen” tactical nuclear weapons were stationed in his country.

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