Russia: Vladimir Putin Orders Nuclear Exercises in Response to Western “Threats”

Russia: Vladimir Putin Orders Nuclear Exercises in Response to Western “Threats”

Russia: Vladimir Putin Orders Nuclear Exercises in Response to Western “Threats”

The Russian Defense Minister announced on Monday that Vladimir Putin had ordered nuclear exercises “in the near future” in response to “threats” from Western leaders against Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered nuclear exercises “in the near future” involving troops based near Ukraine, in response to “threats” from Western leaders towards Moscow, according to the Ministry of Defense on Monday. Simultaneously, at least six people were killed and 35 others injured in the morning in a Ukrainian explosive drone attack on Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine and is regularly targeted by Kiev’s forces.

Since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine in February 2022, Vladimir Putin has fluctuated on the potential use of nuclear weapons. This time, the exercises aim to “maintain the readiness” of the army to protect the country, “in response to provocative statements and threats from certain Western officials against Russia,” stated the Ministry of Defense in a communiqué.

“A series of measures will be taken to train for the preparation and use of non-strategic nuclear weapons,” it added. These weapons, also called tactical nuclear weapons, are designed for use on the battlefield and can be launched by missiles. The Russian ministry added that the measure was taken “on the instruction of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” Vladimir Putin.

This will involve aviation, the navy, and forces from the Southern Military District, which is based close to Ukraine and covers Ukrainian regions claimed by Moscow. The date and location of these exercises were not specified, nor was the number of soldiers mobilized. In mid-March, the Russian president had deemed Russian nuclear weapons “more advanced” than those of the United States, asserting that his arsenal was always “ready” for nuclear conflict, but he had never considered using it in Ukraine.

The CIA and other intelligence agencies estimate that the Russian president did not order “at that time” the death of the Kremlin’s main opponent, according to the “Wall Street Journal” citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter. A conclusion received with skepticism by other Western intelligence services.

US intelligence services consider that Vladimir Putin did not directly order the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in February, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Saturday. The CIA and other intelligence agencies estimate that the Russian president did not order “at that time” the death of the Kremlin’s main opponent, according to the WSJ, which cites anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

This conclusion was met with skepticism by other Western intelligence services and disputed by close allies of the deceased, according to the daily. Russian opposition figure Leonid Volkov described the American approach as “naive” to the WSJ. Those who claim Vladimir Putin was unaware “clearly do not understand how Russia works today,” he said.

The White House National Security Council declined to comment.

US agencies base their conclusions on both classified intelligence and the analysis of public elements, raising new questions about the circumstances of Alexei Navalny’s death in an isolated Arctic prison. Among the elements considered: the fact that this death occurred in the midst of the Russian presidential election campaign in March.

When approached by AFP, the White House National Security Council declined to comment on the article. Western countries, including the United States, consider the Russian president “responsible” for the death of the Russian opposition leader. “Make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death,” Joe Biden said in February.

The main political enemy of the Kremlin, Alexei Navalny, died at 47 on February 16 under unclear circumstances, in a penitentiary facility in the Arctic where he was subjected to particularly harsh detention conditions. Russian authorities claimed he died of natural causes, but the opposition leader’s relatives accuse them of murder.

With the support of Bidzina Ivanishvili, a local billionaire and founder of the Georgian Dream party, Moscow is imposing its will in the small republic that leans towards the West.

It shines before a cinder block wall. On this midday, in Okami, a village of 2,000 inhabitants located an hour’s drive from the capital, Tbilisi, the bust of Stalin gleams by the roadside. A bronze of a rosy hue, erected on a concrete block. The Little Father of the Peoples looks straight ahead, his hair neatly combed, his tunic buttoned up to the neck, the Soviet star pinned to his chest. The setting is pastoral. Poppies dot the tall grass, acacias perfume the gardens, and orchards stretch across the hillside. The only discordant note is this old gas pipe obstructing Stalin’s line of sight.

As the Russian army advances in northeastern Ukraine, another signal from Moscow is deeply troubling the Baltic and Scandinavian countries. The government site published on Tuesday, May 21, a decree from the Ministry of Defense proposing to “adjust” the border around the Russian islands in the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland and around Kaliningrad. In essence, this project would see Russia extend its territorial waters by altering its border with Finland and Lithuania in the Baltic Sea, transferring areas currently controlled by the two countries under Russian jurisdiction.

The borders of Russia in the western region of Kaliningrad and the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland would be modified, according to the document. It provides no details on the extent of the “adjustments” envisioned, merely stating that the boundary delineation dating from 1985, when the USSR used maps…

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping reaffirmed their “unlimited” partnership on Thursday, which has strengthened as both countries face increasing tensions with the West. They both criticized US military alliances in Asia and the Pacific region.

At their summit in Beijing, Mr. Putin thanked Mr. Xi for China’s proposals to end the war in Ukraine.

These proposals were rejected by Ukraine and its Western allies, who felt they largely followed the Kremlin’s line.

Mr. Putin’s two-day state visit to one of his main allies and trading partners comes as Russian forces are launching an offensive in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, in the largest border incursion since the full-scale invasion began on February 24, 2022.

Neutral stance

China claims to adopt a neutral position in the conflict, but it has supported the Kremlin’s assertions that Russia was provoked by the West into attacking Ukraine, and it continues to provide key components Moscow needs for weapons production.

China, which has not criticized the invasion, proposed a broadly formulated peace plan in 2023, calling for a ceasefire and direct talks between Moscow and Kiev. This plan was rejected by Ukraine and the West because it did not call for Russia to leave the occupied parts of Ukraine.

The largely symbolic and ceremonial visit emphasized the partnership between two countries facing challenges in their relations with the United States and Europe.

“Both sides want to show that despite what is happening in the world and the pressure they are under from the United States, they are not ready to turn their backs on each other,” said Hoo Tiang Boon, who studies Chinese foreign policy at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

While Putin and Xi stated they were seeking to end the war, they did not make any new proposals in their public statements.

“China hopes that Europe will quickly regain peace and stability and continue to play a constructive role in this regard,” Mr. Xi said in a prepared speech to the media in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

His remarks echo what China said when it offered a broad peace plan.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Putin was welcomed with great military pomp on Tiananmen Square, with cannon salutes.