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Putin Monitors Strategic Nuclear Forces Exercise


Russian President Vladimir Putin watches drills to test strategic deterrence forces via videoconference in Moscow, Oct. 26, 2022. (Pool photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin watches drills to test strategic deterrence forces via videoconference in Moscow, Oct. 26, 2022. (Pool photo)

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday remotely observed exercises by his nation's strategic nuclear forces that were meant to simulate a response to a “massive nuclear strike.”

Russian state television showed video of Putin observing the drills on a huge television screen, with comments from military leaders. In the broadcast, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the drills involved a nuclear submarine, long-range aircraft and multiple practice launches of ballistic and cruise missiles.

The White House said Tuesday that Russia had given notice it was going to stage the annual exercises, called "Grom" or "Thunder." They came as NATO began its own annual nuclear exercise, known as "Steadfast Noon," on Monday.

For several days, Russian officials have alleged that Ukraine is planning to develop and use a so-called “dirty bomb” in its conflict with Russia.

Biden Warns Russia Against Using Nuclear Weapons as Moscow Launches Drills
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Dirty bombs combine conventional explosives with radioactive material and are designed to spread radioactivity that can cause massive death and contamination.

The U.N. Security Council discussed Russia’s allegations at a closed-door meeting Tuesday.

Ukraine and its Western allies have strongly denied the allegations and suspect they are being made as a pretext for some type of escalation in the war in Ukraine.

Speaking from alliance headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called the accusations “absurd” and "blatantly false,” and he warned Russia not to use false pretexts to escalate the war further.

U.S. President Joe Biden issued a similar warning Tuesday. When asked by a reporter if he thought Russia was using the dirty bomb allegations to set up a ”false flag” operation and deploy a dirty bomb of its own, he said, "Russia would be making an incredibly serious mistake for it to use tactical nuclear weapons.”

Iranian drones

Biden met Wednesday with Israeli President Isaac Herzog at the White House. Herzog had indicated he planned to share intelligence with the U.S. president about Iranian drones being used by Russian forces in Ukraine.

Herzog’s office said Israel has images showing similarities between drones shot down in Ukraine and those Iran tested in 2021. Ukraine and its Western partners have said Russia’s recent use of drones to attack Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, has involved Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones.

Iran has denied supplying them to Russia, and Russia has denied using them in Ukraine. Kyiv has asked the U.N. to send experts to examine the debris, and the United States, Britain, France and Germany have also written to the U.N. supporting an investigation.

Russia called another meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to discuss whether the U.N. secretariat has the authority to send experts to Ukraine under the U.N. Charter and Security Council Resolution 2231, which restricts transfers of certain items to and from Iran.

“The secretariat needs to respond to requests of member states, but to act on the basis of a clear explicit mandate and the U.N. Charter, not on the basis of the desires of certain countries,” Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said of Ukraine and the Western states’ letters.

Iran’s envoy said his country had taken a neutral position on the war and had consistently advocated for peace.

“Iran has never provided the parties with weapons for use in the Ukraine conflict, either before or after the conflict,” Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani told council members.

The U.N.’s top lawyer told the council that the secretary-general was tasked with reporting twice a year on the implementation of Resolution 2231, including findings and recommendations.

“Absent further guidance by the Security Council, the secretary-general will continue to prepare these reports in the manner that they have been prepared to date,” U.N. legal counsel Miguel de Serpa Soares told the council.

The U.N. has not said it would deploy experts to Ukraine and has only gone so far as to say it is ready to assess any information a member state provides it, as in past reports.

In 2017 and 2021, the U.N. investigated allegations that Iran supplied drones to Houthi rebels in Yemen, which were used in attacks on Saudi Arabia. Last year, the U.N. team went to Israel to inspect Iranian drones that had infiltrated Israeli air space.

“It is thus well-established that it is well within the authority of the secretary-general to investigate allegations of violations of Resolution 2231,” U.S. Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood said.

Russia has called for yet another council meeting Thursday to discuss its debunked claims that Ukraine and the United States are planning to infect migratory birds, bats and even mosquitos with lethal pathogens, and then deploy them to infect Russian troops and/or civilians.

VOA’s U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

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