Russian nuclear forces ‘always’ combat ready, Putin warns

Russian nuclear forces ‘always’ combat ready, Putin warns
Russian nuclear forces ‘always’ combat ready, Putin warns

Russian strategic nuclear forces are “always” ready for combat, Vladimir Putin stressed on Thursday during his speech to celebrate the Soviet victory against Hitler, amid tensions linked to the conflict in Ukraine.

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The Russian president oversaw the May 9 military parade in Red Square, a centerpiece of the Kremlin’s narrative extolling the country’s power. More than 9,000 military personnel, according to Russian media, armored vehicles, missile launchers and combat aircraft took part.

“Russia will do everything to avoid a global confrontation. But, at the same time, we will not allow anyone to threaten us. Our strategic (nuclear) forces are always on alert,” declared the Russian president.

He recently ordered tactical nuclear exercises involving troops stationed near Ukraine, facing Western “threats”.

On Thursday, Vladimir Putin said that Moscow, which considers itself a counterweight to Anglo-Saxon influence, rejected “the pretension to exclusivity” of any government or alliance.

Then he reaffirmed that Russia was going through “difficult times.” “The destiny of the homeland and its future depend on each of us,” he said, saluting the “heroes” who fight for Moscow on the front.

Vladimir Putin, 71, presents the assault on Kyiv as an existential conflict and promises “victory” to his fellow citizens on each occasion in a fight against a Ukrainian government accused of being “neo-Nazi”.

The head of the Kremlin has long mobilized the memory of the Second World War – which left 27 million dead on the Soviet side – to present himself as heir to the power of the USSR and legitimize his own power.

Ukrainian strike at 1,200 km

The parade is at the heart of the Kremlin’s patriotic education, denounced as militarist by the opposition.

Elena Melikhova, 44, who came to see the parade in Moscow with her son, told AFP that these commemorations are “very important for future generations”: “It’s very touching and very exciting. And also very scary.”

The parade on Moscow’s Red Square, however, did not escape the security and diplomatic fallout from the assault on kyiv.

Vladimir Putin, isolated on the international scene, was surrounded on Thursday by only a few allied heads of state.

Among them, the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan or Turkmenistan, according to the Kremlin, as well as the presidents of Laos, Cuba and Guinea-Bissau.

Some parades were also canceled for “security” reasons, particularly in regions bordering Ukraine, regularly affected by strikes.

Two women were killed and a third injured Thursday by separate Ukrainian attacks in two villages, very close to Ukraine, in the Belgorod and Kursk regions, according to their respective governors.

During the night, eleven people had already been injured by a strike on the Russian town of Belgorod and its surroundings, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov announced.

Ukraine also claimed responsibility on Thursday for a strike against a Russian refinery in the Bashkortostan region, at a record distance of 1,200 kilometers from its border, an attack which, according to local authorities, did not cause any casualties.

Advances on the front

Unlike the same period last year, the Russian army is in a much better position on the front: it has suffered significant losses and is unable to achieve a real breakthrough on the front in Ukraine, but it has continued recently territorial gains in the face of struggling Ukrainian troops.

Kyiv’s counter-offensive has failed and Ukraine now fears that its adversary, who has more men, equipment and a more powerful military industry, will launch a major operation upon the arrival of summer.

During a meeting with fighters in Ukraine, broadcast on Thursday, Mr. Putin demanded that Russian arms be “always one step ahead,” also recognizing that Moscow was managing to obtain technologies for military use on the international market, despite Western sanctions.

At the same time, domestically, Vladimir Putin’s power is more uncontested than ever. The repression crushed all dissenting voices. His great opponent, Alexeï Navalny, died in mid-February in prison under unclear circumstances.

The Russian president has just been re-appointed as head of the country until 2030, with the possibility of then serving another term until 2036.

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