Russian nuclear train 'a signal to the West' after fears over how Putin will defend annexed Ukrainian regions

3 October 2022, 12:58

A train belonging to a Russian nuclear department was seen moving through Russia
A train belonging to a Russian nuclear department was seen moving through Russia. Picture: Alamy/Twitter

By Will Taylor

Footage showing a train of military equipment belonging to Russia's nuclear units is likely a "signal to the West" – after a desperate Vladimir Putin annexed four regions of Ukraine.

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His seizure of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – none of which are fully controlled by Moscow – raised fears over whether he would go as far as using a nuclear strike to keep them in Russian hands.

His beleaguered forces are crumbling in the face of Ukrainian counter attacks as they move to liberate towns and cities Russia spent weeks trying to take.

Now, footage has emerged of a train belonging to the organisation that handles nuclear munitions moving equipment, according to one defence analyst, moving through what is believed to be central Russia.

"This "another train with military equipment" is actually carrying kit belonging to the 12th Main Directorate of the Russian MoD. The directorate is responsible for nuclear munitions, their storage, maintenance, transport, and issuance to units," said Konrad Muzyka.

"Does that mean that this video shows preparations for a nuclear release? Not really. There are other more likely explanations.

"1) It could be a form of signalling to the West that Moscow is escalating 2) Russian RVSN forces usually train extensively during autumn.

"3) Russia may conduct GROM strategic deterrence exercise in October, so this train could be showing a prep for this drill."

Read more: Putin 'highly unlikely' to use nuclear weapons but is not acting in a 'rational' way, says Defence Sec

Western analysts have debated whether Putin could resort to a limited, tactical use of a nuclear weapon to fend off Ukraine's counter attacks, especially now he considers the four occupied regions part of Russia.

Putin has said he will use "all the means at our disposal" if Russia is put under threat.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace played down the idea Moscow could use a nuke, telling a fringe meeting at the Tory party conference that although the use of nuclear weapons was in the Russian military doctrine, it would be unacceptable to Moscow's allies India and China.

He said it would be "highly unlikely" that Putin would take such a drastic step.