Vladimir Putin oversees massive nuclear test amid fears he could detonate nuke and claims over 'dirty bomb'

26 October 2022, 13:53 | Updated: 26 October 2022, 15:38

Vladimir Putin oversaw a nuclear test
Vladimir Putin oversaw a nuclear test. Picture: Kremlin

By Will Taylor

Vladimir Putin has overseen a massive nuclear exercise in Russia as he keeps up the sabre rattling over his atomic forces.

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The planned tests saw Moscow's nuclear units launch ballistic and cruise missiles to put their arsenal through its paces.

Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister who is a close confidante of Putin's, said the Russian leader had watched over the drills, which practiced firing a "huge nuclear strike in response to an enemy nuclear strike".

Russia test-fired its Yars intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), launched from land, and its Sineva ICBMs, launched by nuclear submarines and Tu-95 bombers.

The US was notified about the exercise – the drills are held annually – and that it complied with arms control agreements.

It is the latest demonstration of nuclear capabilities by a desperate regime that is hoping to end Western support for Ukraine, which is liberating territory seized by Russia and humiliating its troops on the battlefield.

Western observers have speculated over whether Putin would go as far as using a tactical, limited nuclear strike on Ukrainian forces, or possibly detonate one over the Black Sea in a show of force.

Both would be massive escalations that would invite extremely strong responses from the West, with potentially huge ramifications for Russia on the world stage – its image already tainted in many parts by the war.

In the past, Britain's Ministry of Defence has dismissed Russian exercises as largely being for show, and designed to impress leaders.

Read more: UK support for Ukraine 'strong as ever' after Sunak's calls with Zelenskyy and Biden

But it still comes at a time of tension over the deployment of nuclear weapons.

Recent days have seen Moscow accuse Ukraine of planning to use a "dirty bomb", which blasts radioactive material over an area. Ukraine and the West has dismissed that as a bogus claim.

They fear it will be used as a pretext for some kind of Russian escalation.

Its forces are facing one of the biggest reversals of the war, as Ukraine looks to retake Kherson, in the south of the country, the only provincial capital Moscow's army managed to take.

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