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Ukraine updates: Russia orders nuclear preparation drills

Published May 6, 2024last updated May 7, 2024

Russia has announced military exercises near Ukraine that will include deployment drills of tactical nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, six were reported killed in a drone strike on Russia's Belgorod. Follow DW for more.

Russian batteries fire during a training exercise
A Russian Grad multiple rocket launcher seen during an exercise in 2022Image: Lev Fedoseyev/Tass/dpa/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian military to stage tactical nuclear weapons drills involving the navy and troops stationed near Ukraine, Russia's Defense Ministry has said.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian and Russian border regions reported drone strikes. 

The governor of Russia's Belgorod region said six people were killed in a drone strike in Ukraine, and Ukrainian officials reported a power outage in the Sumy region after the Russian airstrike.

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Skip next section European weightlifting champion Pielieshenko killed
May 7, 2024

European weightlifting champion Pielieshenko killed

European champion weightlifter Oleksandr Pielieshenko has been killed in the war, the Ukrainian weightlifting federation announced on Monday.

Pielieshenko, 30, won European gold for Ukraine in 2016 and 2017, while narrowly missing out on an Olympic medal by five kilograms at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, where he finished fourth.

He joined the Ukrainian army at the onset of the Russian invasion in February 2022.

"It is with great sadness that we have to tell you that the heart of the great Ukrainian sportsman Oleksandr Pielieshenko has stopped beating," the federation reported in a statement.

In a Facebook post, Ukraine's national weightlifting coach Victor Slobodianiuk said Pielieshenko "died a hero defending Ukraine."

Skip next section USA and EU denounce Russian nuclear exercises as 'irresponsible'
May 6, 2024

USA and EU denounce Russian nuclear exercises as 'irresponsible'

Both the United States and the European Union (EU) have denounced Russia's announcement of tactical nuclear readiness drills as "irresponsible" given current heightened tensions.

Moscow said on Monday that it will hold military exercises to test the preparedness of its non-strategic nuclear forces in response to what it called "provocative statements and threats" made by Western officials.

At a press conference in Brussels, a European Commission spokesman called the announcement "saber-rattling" and a "continuation of Russia's irresponsible behavior."

Peter Stano, spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, said the move was "yet another proof that the Kremlin is only interested in further escalating the situation which was caused by its illegal aggression against Ukraine."

He said the EU called on Russia to "stop the escalation" and the "irresponsible rhetoric."

In Washington, spokesman for the US Department of Defense Pat Ryder denounced the Kremlin's behavior in identical terms, saying it was "entirely inappropriate" in the current security situation.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the drills will involve the air force, navy and army units stationed near Ukraine training for the deployment of non-strategic — or tactical — nuclear weapons, which are designed for limited use on the battlefield.

Pentagon spokesman Ryder said that the US had not registered any changes in the status of Russia's strategic nuclear forces — atomic warheads mounted on ballistic missiles for long-distance strikes at foreign targets.

Skip next section Russia tightens regulations on 'foreign agents' again
May 6, 2024

Russia tightens regulations on 'foreign agents' again

Russia has further tightened its controversial legislation on so-called foreign agents, Russian news agencies reported. 

The State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia's parliament, has approved an amendment to the law that deprives people classified as "foreign agents" of the right to run for office.

They will no longer be able to register as candidates for national, regional or local elections. In addition, "foreign agents" will no longer be allowed to serve as election observers.

The controversial "foreign agents" law targets people, media and non-governmental organizations in Russia that do not toe the government's party line.

The Kremlin has intensified its crackdown on dissent since launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago.

Skip next section Russia summons British ambassador, threatens to strike UK military targets
May 6, 2024

Russia summons British ambassador, threatens to strike UK military targets

Russia summoned British Ambassador Nigel Casey to issue a formal protest after Foreign Secretary David Cameron said Ukraine had the right to use British weapons to attack Russia.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said Cameron's remarks were a recognition that Britain was now a de facto part of the conflict.

It also warned that British military facilities could be targeted both inside and outside Ukraine in response to attacks on Russian territory.

"Casey was warned that in response to Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory with British weapons, any British military facilities and equipment on the territory of Ukraine and abroad" could be targeted, the Foreign Ministry said.

"The Ambassador was called upon to reflect on the inevitable catastrophic consequences of such hostile steps by London and immediately refute the belligerent provocative statements of the head of the Foreign Office in the most decisive and unambiguous way."

During his visit to Kyiv on Thursday, Cameron said that London had no objection to its weapons being used inside Russia.

Skip next section Ukraine urges partners not to recognize Putin as legitimate president
May 6, 2024

Ukraine urges partners not to recognize Putin as legitimate president

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry has called on international allies not to recognize Vladimir Putin, who will be inaugurated on Tuesday, as Russia's legitimate president.

According to the ministry, the electoral process was illegally organized in the sovereign territories of Ukraine temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation and was accompanied by threats, blackmail and coercion of millions of Ukrainian citizens living in the temporarily occupied territories or forcibly relocated to the territory of the Russian Federation.

Based on "the International Criminal Court's active arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin, Ukraine sees no legal basis for recognizing him as the democratically elected and legitimate president of the Russian Federation," the ministry said in a statement.

Germany has already announced that it will not send a representative to Putin's inauguration. The Baltic states have also categorically ruled out attending the inauguration.

France, on the other hand, will send its ambassador to the inauguration, a French diplomatic source told Reuters.

Skip next section Von der Leyen says EU is counting on China to influence Russia
May 6, 2024

Von der Leyen says EU is counting on China to influence Russia

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that China should do more to pressure Russia to end its war on Ukraine

"We count on China to use all its influence on Russia to end Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine," von der Leyen said following a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

She also said she was confident Xi would de-escalate tensions over nuclear threats made by Russia.

"President Xi has played an important role in de-escalating Russia's irresponsible nuclear threats, and I am confident that President Xi will continue to do so against the backdrop of ongoing nuclear threats by Russia," von der Leyen added, hours after President Vladimir Putin ordered nuclear weapons drills involving troops based near Ukraine.

The EU Commission chief also urged China to limit the delivery of dual use goods to Russia which end up being used in its war against Ukraine.

"More effort is needed to curtail delivery of dual use goods to Russia that find their way to the battlefield," she said after talks in Paris, warning that "this does affect EU-China relations."

China's Xi Jinping arrives in France

Skip next section Russia claims capture of two frontline villages in Ukraine
May 6, 2024

Russia claims capture of two frontline villages in Ukraine

Russian forces have captured two more frontline villages in Ukraine, Kotliarivka in the Kharkiv region, and Soloviove in the Donetsk region, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

Kotliarivka is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the embattled Ukrainian stronghold of Kupiansk in the northeast, an area that has seen intense shelling amid speculation that Moscow could launch an offensive there.

Soloviove, meanwhile, is on the eastern front, near the village of Ocheretyne, which Moscow claimed to have captured on Sunday.

Moscow has made a string of gains on the front in recent months, pressing its manpower and weapons advantage on the battlefield as Kyiv waits for critical supplies of Western aid.

Skip next section Kremlin says nuclear drills in response to West considering sending troops to Ukraine
May 6, 2024

Kremlin says nuclear drills in response to West considering sending troops to Ukraine

The Kremlin said Russia's upcoming tactical nuclear drills announced on Monday come as a response to "unprecedented" comments from the West about sending troops to Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov cited comments by French President Emmanuel Macron on possibly sending soldiers to Ukraine, as well as statements from US and UK lawmakers. 

"It's obvious we are talking about statements from Mr. Macron and statements from British representatives," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked by reporters what had prompted the drills.

 "This is a completely new round of escalating tensions. It is unprecedented and requires special measures," he added. 

Military and other special services are verifying reports about deployment of France's foreign legion in Ukraine, Peskov added.

Last week, in an interview with the Economist newsmagazine, Macron did not explicitly rule out the possibility of sending French troops to Ukraine in certain circumstances.

Skip next section Russia's Putin orders tactical nuclear deployment drills
May 6, 2024

Russia's Putin orders tactical nuclear deployment drills

Russia said it will hold military exercises that include practice using tactical nuclear weapons after what the defense ministry called provocative threats from Western officials.

Russia's Defense Ministry said the exercise was ordered by President Vladimir Putin and would test the readiness of non-strategic nuclear forces to carry out combat missions.

The exercise is aimed at ensuring Russia's territorial integrity and sovereignty "in response to provocative statements and threats by certain Western officials against the Russian Federation," the ministry said.

The military drills will include training for the preparation and use of non-strategic nuclear weapons, the ministry said. 

No actual nuclear tests were reported to be planned.

"During the exercise, a set of measures will be carried out to practice the issues of preparation and use of non-strategic nuclear weapons," the military said.

Missile formations of the Southern Military District, which borders Ukraine, and the Navy will take part in the drills, it added.

Tactical nuclear weapons, also called non-strategic nuclear weapons, are designed to be used on a battlefield to destroy enemy targets without causing widespread destruction and radioactive fallout. Russia has the world's largest nuclear arsenal.

The new nuclear arms race

Skip next section Russian drone strikes cut power to 400,000 in Ukraine's Sumy region
May 6, 2024

Russian drone strikes cut power to 400,000 in Ukraine's Sumy region

A Russian overnight drone attack temporarily disrupted power supply to parts of Ukraine's northeastern Sumy region, local officials said.

"Electricity supply has been restored in the affected settlements and parts of the city of Sumy," the region's military administration said on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukraine's Energy Ministry said Russia's attack cut power to more than 400,000 consumers in the Sumy region. Work to restore power continued into the morning as 91 settlements remained without power in the region, the ministry and local authorities said on Telegram.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's air force said Russia launched 13 attack drones targeting Ukraine, but air defense systems shot down 12 of them over the Sumy region.

Russia, which has been pounding the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine with drones and missiles throughout the war, has recently been targeting energy infrastructure in particular.

Russian forces make gains in eastern Ukraine

Skip next section Ukrainian drones kill 6 in Russia's Belgorod region, governor says
May 6, 2024

Ukrainian drones kill 6 in Russia's Belgorod region, governor says

Six people were killed, and 35 others wounded, in a Ukrainian drone strike that hit two buses carrying people to work in Russia's Belgorod region, the governor said Monday.

Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said the attack took place near the village of Berezovka. He posted a picture on the Telegram messaging app of a bus with its windows blown out.

Gladkov also said one man was in serious condition and two children had superficial wounds.

Theregion, which borders Ukraine, has been repeatedly attacked by Ukrainian artillery, drones and proxies over the past year.

dh/wmr (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Russia starts evacuating villages after cross-border attacks