Kremlin dismisses media report of nuclear test

One report suggested Russia would test a nuclear drone carried by a Northern Fleet submarine.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a conference of heads of security and intelligence agencies of the Commonwealth of Independent States member countries via a video link in Moscow on September 29, 2022. (Sputnik / Gavriil Grigorov / Kremlin via Reuters)

MOSCOW — The Kremlin said on Tuesday that it did not want to take part in “nuclear rhetoric” from the West after a media report that Russia was preparing to demonstrate its willingness to use nuclear weapons in its conflict with Ukraine.

The Times newspaper reported on Monday that the NATO military alliance had warned members that President Vladimir Putin was set to demonstrate his willingness to use nuclear weapons by carrying out a nuclear test on Ukraine’s border.

The London-based newspaper also said Russia had moved a train thought to be linked to a unit of the defense ministry that was responsible for nuclear munitions.

NATO has not observed changes in Russia’s nuclear posture, but is vigilant, an alliance official said on Tuesday, while a Western diplomat, commenting on the Times report, told Reuters that NATO had not warned allies about a nuclear threat from Russia.

When asked about the Times report, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia did not want to take part in what he cast as Western exercises in “nuclear rhetoric.”

“The Western media, Western politicians and heads of state are engaging in a lot of exercises in nuclear rhetoric right now,” Peskov said. “We do not want to take part in this.”

Italian daily La Repubblica reported on Sunday that NATO had sent its members an intelligence report on the movements of the Belgorod nuclear submarine.

“Now it is back to dive in the Arctic seas and it is feared that its mission is to test for the first time the super-torpedo Poseidon, often referred to as ‘the weapon of the Apocalypse’,” La Repubblica said.

The Belgorod, which is believed to be able to carry six such weapons, was finished in 2019 and delivered to Russia’s Northern Fleet this summer.

The Italian defense minister declined to comment on the matter.

Putin on Sept. 21 ordered Russia’s first mobilization of military reservists since World War Two to put more troops on the battlefield and backed a plan to annex swathes of Ukraine, warning the West he was not bluffing when he said he’d be ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia.

Russia is the world’s biggest nuclear power based on the number of nuclear warheads: It has 5,977 warheads while the United States has 5,428, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; additional reporting by Giselda Vagnoni in Rome.