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Vladimir Putin sends ‘nuclear kit’ on train toward Ukraine

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Ukrainians ride on an armoured vehicle in the Donesk region of Ukraine yesterday. Photo: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

Ukrainians ride on an armoured vehicle in the Donesk region of Ukraine yesterday. Photo: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik/AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik/AP

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Ukrainians ride on an armoured vehicle in the Donesk region of Ukraine yesterday. Photo: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

A convoy has been spotted transporting equipment for Russia’s nuclear weapons programme, prompting fears that Vladimir Putin could be preparing a test to send a “signal to the West”.

A train operated by the secretive nuclear division and linked to the 12th main directorate of the Russian ministry of defence was seen crossing central Russia over the weekend as it headed towards Ukraine.

The pro-Russian Telegram channel Rybar shared the footage, which showed the freight convoy hauling upgraded armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and other equipment.

Konrad Muzyka, a Poland-based defence analyst specialising in Ukraine, said: “This is 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.”

Mr Muzyka added it could be a “signalling to the West that Moscow is escalating”, in reference to Putin’s nuclear-war threat on Friday. However, he stressed that the video did not show “preparations for a nuclear release”.

It comes as sources told The Times that Nato had sent intelligence to member states and allies alerting them to the fact that Russia is expected to test Poseidon, a nuclear-capable torpedo drone dubbed the “weapon of the apocalypse”, possibly in the Black Sea. According to La Repubblica, it is about to be tested in Kara Sea, north of Russia’s mainland.

The manoeuvres may indicate an increasingly desperate Putin’s willingness to escalate the war after a series of embarrassing battlefield defeats led to the loss of a key city in Donetsk and setbacks in the Kherson region.

According to Pentagon officials, the US is considering how to respond to a range of scenarios, including Russian use of tactical nuclear weapons.

On Friday, at a ceremony in which he announced the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, Putin said Russia would use “all available means” to defend the areas. Russia also fired a top general yesterday as its forces retreated on two fronts in the face of Ukrainian breakthroughs.

Colonel General Alexander Zhuravlyov, the head of the Western Military District, was replaced by Lieutenant General Roman Berdnikov, Russian media group RBC has reported.

It comes after intense criticism following the collapse of Russian forces in the Kharkiv region and the loss of the strategically important Donetsk town of Lyman at the weekend. A Ukrainian soldier who recently returned from Kharkiv region said the Russians appeared to be “running” and had not tried, or had failed, to set up defensive lines.

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With the withdrawals, Russian forces abandoned parts of the Kherson and Donetsk regions declared part of Russia by Putin on Friday.

A Ukrainian attack along the western bank of the Dnipro river liberated several settlements and raised fears of a collapse on the Kherson front among Russian war bloggers. Meanwhile, Ukrainian units in the north-east of the country advanced several miles after the Russians failed to establish a defensive line after Lyman fell.

Russian MPs yesterday unanimously ratified Putin’s decree annexing the Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Donetsk regions, despite the battlefield setback, though the Kremlin said it had not decided how much land it would annex. Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said the Luhansk and Donetsk regions would join Russia in their entirety – but the borders of the new Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions had not been decided. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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