Would Russia really attack Ukraine with nuclear weapons?

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On the day before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest inauguration, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced upcoming tactical nuclear weapons maneuvers near the Ukrainian border in the near future. This would mark the first time such drills have occurred since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The ministry stated that the exercises will involve missile units from the Southern Military District’s aerial defense, along with air and naval forces, with the objective of enhancing the readiness of nonstrategic nuclear forces.

These maneuvers will not only cover recognized Russian territory but also Crimea, annexed in 2014, and four Ukrainian regions in the southeast partially occupied by Russia. Western officials have consistently condemned Russian authorities for issuing nuclear threats. While Putin has not openly threatened a nuclear attack, he has cautioned the West about the potential of nuclear conflict in a direct confrontation.

In contrast, Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, has openly discussed the use of nuclear weapons on multiple occasions, including once again on the same day. Medvedev has also connected the decision to conduct tactical nuclear weapons exercises with Western discussions about sending allied ground troops to Ukraine.

Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, has tied the planned nuclear drills to statements made by Western politicians regarding a potential troop deployment in Ukraine, specifically mentioning French President Emmanuel Macron. Peskov referred to a “new round of escalating tensions” in this context.

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