DAccording to reports from Moscow, Russian forces in Kaliningrad simulated attacks with nuclear-capable missiles amid the offensive in Ukraine. As part of an exercise, about 100 soldiers simulated the “electronic launch” of mobile ballistic missile systems with nuclear weapons of the Iskander type, the Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday.
The armed forces practiced attacks against military targets of an imaginary enemy and how to react to a counterattack.
Since the start of the military operation in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has signaled his readiness to use Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons. At the end of February, Russia put its nuclear forces on high alert. The Kremlin chief also warned of “swift retaliation” if the West intervened directly in the Ukrainian conflict.
Observers say Russian state television has tried in recent days to make the use of nuclear weapons acceptable to the public. “For two weeks, we have been hearing on our television screens that the nuclear silos must be opened,” Russian journalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov said on Tuesday.
Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea between two EU and NATO members, Poland and Lithuania.
Meanwhile, air raid sirens sounded again in Ukrainian cities across the country on Thursday evening. Rocket fire followed soon after in the towns of Cherkasy, Dnipro and Zaporizhia. Dnipro Mayor Borys Filatov said an attack hit the city center.
City authorities also mentioned attacks on a railway facility without giving details. The railway company said employees were not injured in the attack on Dnipro. Recently, Russia had increasingly attacked the railway infrastructure in Ukraine.
According to the regional administration, at least two civilians were also killed in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk. Eleven others were injured as a result of Russian attacks. Artillery shelling was also reported on the cities of Mykolaiv and Kharkiv.
Meanwhile, Russia announced a three-day ceasefire to evacuate civilians from steel mills from Azov to Mariupol in southern Ukraine. The Russian Armed Forces will open evacuation corridors for civilians from the industrial complex on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (7 a.m. to 5 p.m. CEST), the Russian Defense Ministry said. During this period, “all hostilities unilaterally” would cease. Civilians could travel to Russia or areas under Ukrainian control.
The deputy head of the Russian presidential office, Sergei Kiriyenko, had already visited the almost completely conquered port city. This was reported by the head of the separatist republic of Donetsk, Denis Puschilin, on Telegram on Wednesday. Former Russian Prime Minister Kirienko organizes Russian domestic politics in the Kremlin for President Vladimir Putin. According to the information, he visited the steel plant in Ilich and the port of Mariupol.
Kiriyenko and General Secretary of the United Russia Kremlin Party Andrei Turchak also visited the city of Volnovakha. The people of the Donetsk People’s Republic understood the visit of the senior Kremlin official as a symbol “that Russia has returned here forever,” Puschilin wrote. Shortly before the attack on Ukraine, Russia recognized as independent the so-called people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, which broke up in 2014.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on UN Secretary-General António Guterres to save the lives of injured people trapped in the Azov steelworks in Mariupol and help evacuate them. “The lives of those who are still there are in danger. Everyone is important to us,” Zelenskyy said in a phone conversation with António Guterres on Wednesday.
The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had managed to rescue more than a hundred civilians from the steelworks during a five-day evacuation operation over the past few days.
Mayor Wadym Boichenko reported heavy fighting going on around the steel plant. Contact with the Ukrainian soldiers entrenched there had been broken. According to Mayor Boichenko, about 200 civilians are still on the premises of the Azov steelworks.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk reported in the Telegram online service that a total of 334 people from Mariupol and surrounding areas were rescued on Wednesday. “This is another small win for us,” Vereshchuk wrote.
The federal government now plans to deliver seven self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine. According to information from government circles, the howitzers are currently being repaired and should be intact by the end of June, reports “Bild” (Thursday edition).
Meanwhile, according to “Bild”, the exchange of rings with Slovenia has been delayed. The Slovenians were supposed to deliver T-72 main battle tanks to kyiv in exchange for German Marder infantry fighting vehicles and Fuchs armored personnel carriers. But the Slovenian government apparently insists on delivering more modern tanks.
Although the Bundeswehr has about 100 Panzerhaubitze 2000 weapon systems on paper, only 40 of them are operational. With the delivery of the seven repair howitzers, the delivery to Ukraine would at least not increase the gap for the Bundeswehr.
Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk told the newspaper: “We call on the Federal Government to hand over a significant part of the available weapon systems from Bundeswehr stocks to Ukraine as soon as possible.”