Russia announces exercises with non-strategic nuclear weapons

(CNN) — Russia announced exercises with non-strategic nuclear weapons, after the Kremlin condemned what it called an “unprecedented” escalation of tension by the West.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Monday that the General Staff began preparations to carry out “exercises in the near future with missile formations of the Southern Military District involving aviation as well as naval forces.”

“During the exercises, a set of measures will be carried out to practice the issues of preparation and use of non-strategic nuclear weapons,” the Defense Ministry added in a statement.

According to the Ministry’s statement, the exercises “aim to maintain the readiness of personnel and equipment of combat use units of non-strategic nuclear weapons to respond and unconditionally guarantee the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian State, in response to provocative statements and threats by certain Western officials against the Russian Federation.

Tochka tactical ballistic missiles during the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 in the Hero City of Minsk, May 9, 2015. (Credit: Host / RIA Novosti via Getty Images)

Non-strategic nuclear weapons, also known as tactical, have less power than strategic ones – capable of destroying cities – and are small enough to be easily moved and fired by conventional systems.

In his message to the Federal Assembly last February, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that his country was suspending its participation in the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Weapons, accusing the United States of developing new types of nuclear weapons. Putin then stressed that Russia would not be the first to test nuclear weapons, but that it would do so if the United States did so, according to the state news agency RIA Novosti.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said Monday that the West is provoking a new “round of unprecedented escalation of tension,” citing the willingness of France, the United Kingdom and the United States to deploy armed forces in Ukraine and adding that this movement requires response measures from Moscow.

Peskov was thus responding to a question about Russia’s preparations for upcoming military exercises, including the use of non-strategic nuclear weapons.

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