Senior Russian military leaders recently had conversations to discuss when and how Moscow might use a tactical nuclear weapon to reverse its struggles on the battlefields of Ukraine, The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing multiple senior American officials it did not identify.
The Times said Russian President Vladimir Putin was not a part of the conversations, but that they heightened concerns that Russia would consider the nuclear option if its fortunes do not improve with conventional weaponry.
“The fact that senior Russian military leaders were even having the discussions alarmed the Biden administration because it showed how frustrated Russian generals were about their failures on the ground, and suggests that Mr. Putin’s veiled threats to use nuclear weapons might not just be words,” the Times reported.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, speaking with reporters Wednesday, declined to comment “on the particulars” of the Times reporting. He added that Putin has made reckless comments in the past but that “we have not seen any indication that the Russians are making preparations” to use tactical nuclear weapons.
Russia invaded Ukraine in February, taking control of swaths of the country it has since claimed to annex. Ukraine, however, has in recent weeks liberated much of the occupied territory.
Putin the in the past has made veiled threats that tactical nuclear weapons could be a viable option under some circumstances. But more recently Russian rhetoric has centered on unsubstantiated claims that Ukraine is considering use of a radiation “dirty bomb,” an accusation Ukrainian officials vociferously deny. Such claims could be used as a pretext for escalating the war. In a speech last week, Putin denied that Russia was preparing to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
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►North Korea covertly shipped a “significant number” of artillery shells to Russia in support of its invasion of Ukraine, Kirby said.
►Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said he will send land mine teams to help clear mines left by retreating Russian troops. He also offered to mediate talks aimed at ending the war. President Joe Biden has confirmed he will attend the ASEAN and East Asian summits to be held in Phnom Penh in mid-November.
►The U.N. Security Council will vote Wednesday on a resolution to establish a commission to investigate Russian claims that Ukraine and the United States are carrying out “military biological” activities that violate international law. Both countries dismiss the allegations as Russian propaganda.
►Polish soldiers began laying razor wire Wednesday along Poland’s border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad after the government ordered the construction of a barrier to prevent what it fears could become another migration crisis.
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US, allies to provide $25M to Ukraine’s immediate energy needs
The European Union and other western allies, including the U.S, Japan, and Britain, will provide over $25 million to cover Ukraine’s urgent energy needs, the Ukraine Energy Ministry reported. The country’s energy infrastructure has been battered in recent weeks by unrelenting Russian missile and drone strikes. Rolling blackouts have become a way of life, and engineers are constantly repairing damaged equipment.
“Ukraine’s energy sector needs not only financing but also the best world experience, technologies, and solutions that would allow it to withstand Russia’s attacks,” the statement reads.
Elon Musk won’t cut Ukraine off from satellite network
Elon Musk has notified Ukraine that he will keep funding its access to a crucial satellite network providing Kyiv with battlefield and humanitarian communications, according to Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation. Federov said Musk told him he will continue to provide Starlink to Ukraine, this after Musk complained last month that it was costing his company $20 million a month.
“There are no problems for now with Starlink,” Fedorov said
Partisan Ukraine attacks hurt Russia’s front-line strength, think tank says
Effective Ukrainian partisan attacks are forcing the Kremlin to divert resources away from front-line operations to help occupied territory, degrading Russia’s ability to defend against Ukraine’s now-two-monthlong counteroffensive, a U.S.-based military think tank says.
Ukrainian partisans have assassinated at least 11 Russian occupation officials and prominent collaborators, the Institute for the Study of War says in its latest assessment. Russia is struggling to control 33,000 square miles of seized Ukrainian territory, excluding Crimea, the institute says. The institute blames poor Russian security for the partisan attacks and says increasing manpower shortages are likely degrading Russia ability to effectively secure rear areas and – fight effectively on the front lines.
“The Kremlin still has not effectively countered Ukraine’s organized partisan movement and is unlikely to have the capabilities to do so,” the assessment says.
Norway bulking up defense, draws warning from Russia
Norwegian Prime Minister Støre says his government will raise its military defense preparedness in line with the “serious security situation Europe is in.” Defense Minister Gram added that not all the actions being taken will be seen nor publicly discussed. He said defense forces “have a good overview of the situation, and we’re making our defense forces able to handle this situation over time.” The announcement drew criticism from Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova at a briefing on Wednesday.
“Oslo is now among the most active supporters of NATO’s involvement in the Arctic,” she said, accusing Norwegian leaders of a “deliberate pursuit of a destructive course toward escalation of tensions in the Euro-Arctic region and the final destruction of Russian-Norwegian relations.” She added that “any unfriendly actions will be followed by a timely and adequate response.”
Russia agrees to again allow grain shipments from Ukraine ports
The on-again, off-again agreement under which Russia allowed grain to be shipped from Ukraine is on again effective Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday. Russia had announced over the weekend it would no longer recognize the U.N.-brokered plan that released millions of tons of grain shipments desperately needed in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, however, warned that “provocations” such as Saturday’s attack on Russian ships in the Black Sea can’t happen again.
“It’s necessary to make sure that those who stand behind the Kiev regime … understand that no such provocations will happen again,” she said on Komsomolskaya Pravda radio.
Contributing: Francesca Chambers, USA TODAY; The Associated Press