US says no evidence Putin’s nuclear drills are ‘cover activity’

Putin says Truss was 'out of it' as he slams her nuclear comments

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Russia escalated tensions with Ukraine and its allies last weekend as it claimed that Kyiv might use a “dirty bomb”, an explosive device which contains radioactive material, as fears of Moscow’s use of nuclear weapons increases. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu held a phone call with UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in which he made the claim that Moscow was “concerned about possible provocations by Kyiv involving the use of a dirty bomb”.

In response to “Russia’s nuclear blackmail”, the United States said it “rejected any pretext for Russian escalation” as it dismissed the unsubstantiated claims of a dirty bomb.

On Wednesday, Vladimir Putin observed a part of the so-called annual “Grom” exercises of Russia’s nuclear forces.

A statement from the Kremlin said: “Under the leadership of…Vladimir Putin, a training session was held with ground, sea, and air strategic deterrence forces, during which practical launches of ballistic and cruise missiles took place.”

According to US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, new information from the Pentagon does not indicate the exercises are a cover for a real deployment.

Moscow said that the Grom exercises involve Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and Tupolev strategic bomber planes.

With the rising tensions between the West and Putin following his thinly veiled threats of the use of nuclear weapons, the drills have posed a challenge to the US and allies in the West.

Shoigu reported to the Russian President that the exercise aimed to simulate a “massive nuclear strike” by Russia in retaliation to a potential nuclear attack on the country.

In his remarks on the issue, the US Defence Secretary did not signal concern and Western officials are confident in their abilities to detect whether Russia may be moving to use a nuclear device.

Mr Austin said: “We haven’t seen anything to cause us to believe, at this point, that is some king of cover activity”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that the comment about a ‘dirty bomb’ from Moscow showed that Russia is planning to use such a device.

In a series of phone calls between Shoigu and a number of defence ministers allied to Kyiv, the Russian warned of the “rapidly deteriorating” situation in Ukraine.

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The Kremlin’s minister warned that the situation “is trending towards further uncontrolled escalation”.

In response, Zelensky said that Russia is “the source of everything dirty that can be imagined in this war”.

According to the US Institute for the Study of War, it is highly likely that the Russian Defence Minister “sought to slow or suspend Western military aid to Ukraine and possibly weaken the NATO alliance in scare-mongering calls”.

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