Russia Announces Occupied Ukraine Territories Now Under Nuclear Protection: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed this week that the four Ukrainian territories “annexed” by Russia last month are now under the nuclear umbrella of the Russian Federation. While one can take from that what they will, it might suggest once again that the Kremlin is seriously considering using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Nuclear Weapons Threats?
When asked by reporters this week about the status of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, Peskov confirmed that the territories are “inalienable parts of the Russian Federation” and are all protected.
“Their security is provided for at the same level as the rest of Russia’s territory,” Peskov continued.
Peskov’s comments are important not just because he is the Kremlin’s top spokesman, but because he has repeatedly danced around the issue of nuclear conflict and the “existential threat” to Russia that would prompt it with the world’s press.
The Kremlin spokesman also confirmed that work is underway to integrate the Ukraine territories fully into the Russian Federation, meaning incorporating them into the country’s economic, social, and legislative spheres. Completing this process, however, will require Russian forces to take full control over each territory.
Preparing Nuclear Exercises
The comments come as Russia prepares for its annual nuclear exercises, which consist of large-scale drills of the nation’s nuclear forces. Russia typically holds nuclear exercises around this time of year, and according to U.S. officials, the Russian military could even test-launch ballistic missiles capable of firing nuclear warheads.
Speaking to Reuters, one Western official warned that holding nuclear exercises, known in Russia as “Grom” drills, at a time like this could be dangerous.
“This is why you don’t want to have extraordinarily overheated rhetoric at the same time you’re going to do a nuclear exercise,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.
“Because then we do have an additional challenge to really be sure that the actions that we see, the things that are occurring, are actually an exercise and not something else.”
Is This A Nuclear Bluff?
Peskov’s comments do not change the dynamics of the Ukraine conflict, nor does what he said constitute new information.
Since Putin “annexed” the four contested regions of Ukraine last month, the Kremlin made it clear that the territories are now considered part of the Russian Federation. However, the Kremlin spokesman’s specific confirmation that the four regions are protected under Russia’s nuclear umbrella does serve as a reminder that Putin is still considering using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine – or that Putin still wants the West to believe that he is.
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What the Experts Think About Ukraine
“Clearly Putin keeps signaling he may use nuclear weapons, that is for sure,” explained a former Obama National Security Council staffer who worked on the Russia portfolio. “I would have to wager that Putin understands that the use of any sort of nuke is a redline that President Biden and NATO collectively would not ignore. That means, at the very least, the West would give Ukraine ATACMS and many more systems to try and give Ukraine every advantage it could. But that might also mean Putin also uses more nukes. In short: it would all be a mess.”
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.