Russia has begun exercises for the use of tactical nuclear weapons near Ukraine

The Russian military said today that it has begun exercises near Ukraine for the use of tactical nuclear weapons, which were ordered by President Vladimir Putin in early May, stressing that it was a response to Western "threats".

"The first phase of exercises for the preparation and use of non-strategic nuclear weapons has begun," the Russian Ministry of Defense said.

As stated, the maneuvers are taking place in the Southern Military District, which is located near Ukraine and which includes Ukrainian areas annexed by Moscow.

At this stage, Russian soldiers practice loading "special ammunition" into the batteries of the Iskander missiles, as well as their "covert" movement in the firing zones.

The drills include aviation and hypersonic Dagger missiles, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement, Izvestia reports.

"The ongoing exercises are aimed at maintaining the readiness of personnel and equipment and the use of non-strategic nuclear weapons to respond and guarantee the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian state ... in response to threats from some Western officials," the statement said.

In early May, Putin ordered nuclear drills, which the Kremlin says are a response to threats from the West and, in particular, to the possibility that French President Emmanuel Macron has mentioned of sending troops to Ukraine.

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