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Putin orders tactical nuclear weapons drills

Russia will test its ability to deploy tactical nuclear weapons, the Defense Ministry announced on Monday. The drill will be conducted “in the near future” and was ordered by President Vladimir Putin, the statement said.

Missile forces of the Southern Military District will be directly involved in the exercise. It will also require the participation of military aircraft and the Russian Navy, the ministry said.

The goal of the exercise is to iron out “the practical aspects of the preparation and deployment of non-strategic nuclear weapons,” it added.

The military cited “provocative statements and threats against Russia by certain Western officials” as the reason for the drill. The troops will confirm that they can “ensure unconditional territorial integrity and sovereignty” of the nation, it added.

Moscow has a wide range of nuclear-capable weapons, from long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles to smaller-range tactical nukes. Amid the Ukraine conflict, senior Russian officials, including Putin, have stated that the country’s nuclear doctrine allows the use of these weapons when the existence of the nation is at stake.

The US and its allies have accused Moscow of nuclear saber-rattling. Putin said in March that at no point in the conflict has the situation required such a radical move as a nuclear strike.

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