A Russian military train is reportedly transporting equipment for the nation’s nuclear weapons program to the frontlines of its war with Ukraine, sparking fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be preparing to use nuclear weapons on the battlefield amid his nation’s mounting losses in the war.
The Telegraph reported that the train is “operated by the secretive nuclear division and linked to the 12th main directorate of the Russian ministry of defence.” The train, which was pictured on a Russian propaganda Telegram account, was reportedly on its way to Ukraine from central Russia.
Military defense analyst Konrad Muzyka said that the 12th directorate operates a dozen facilities for storing Russia’s nuclear weapons, according to The Telegraph.
“This is actually a kit belonging to the 12th Main Directorate of the Russian MoD,” the analyst said. “The directorate is responsible for nuclear munitions, their storage, maintenance, transport, and issuance to units.”
Muzyka said that the move could be a signal to the West that Putin is “escalating” his efforts to win in Ukraine, a sign that he is feeling vulnerable over how things are going.
The report said that sources indicated that NATO told its members in an intelligence report that Russia is expected to test a powerful nuclear torpedo drone, Poseidon, in the very near future. Early on in its invasion of Ukraine, Russia used hypersonic missiles against Ukraine, marking the first known time in history that any military has used the new weapons in a combat scenario.
The sighting of the nuclear train comes after Putin warned of using nuclear weapons last week, saying, “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will without doubt use all available means to protect Russia and our people — this is not a bluff.”
Dmitry Medvedev, a former president who now serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, followed up Putin’s warning by saying that Russia had a right to use nuclear weapons: “Let’s imagine that Russia is forced to use the most fearsome weapon against the Ukrainian regime which had committed a large-scale act of aggression that is dangerous for the very existence of our state.”
The Biden administration was repeatedly asked about the report on Russia moving its nuclear train around and whether it was preparing for any contingencies in the event that nuclear weapons are used in Ukraine, and officials repeatedly responded by giving very little information to reporters.