Kremlin announces nuclear drills as Russia captures Ukrainian villages

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered nuclear weapons drills near Ukraine, Moscow said Monday, in response to "threats" from Western officials to deploy NATO troops to Ukraine.

The announcement came as Russian forces said they captured two villages in the war-battered regions of Donetsk and Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, where outgunned and outmanned Ukrainian troops have struggled to hold the line.

Russian officials in the border region of Belgorod meanwhile announced that Ukrainian attack drones had killed six people and wounded over 30, including several children.

Putin has upped his nuclear rhetoric since ordering his army into Ukraine in 2022, warning in February there was a "real" risk of nuclear war.

The defence ministry gave no date for the drills, but said they would involve the air force, navy and troops stationed near Ukraine.

It said they were aimed at ensuring Russian territorial integrity in the face of Western "threats."

The Kremlin specified that the exercises were a response to statements by French President Emmanuel Macron and British officials.

Russia has in recent days hit out at Macron for telling The Economist magazine he was "not ruling anything out" in the West's response to the conflict in Ukraine, including sending troops to the country.

It has also blasted U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron for saying Kiev has the right to strike targets inside Russia.

 'Dangerous rhetoric' 

"They are talking about the readiness and even the intention of sending armed contingents to Ukraine — that is, in fact, to put NATO soldiers in front of the Russian military," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"This is a completely new round of escalating tensions...

Continue reading on: