British Paper Warns That Russia’s Nukes Are on the Move and Putin May Be Planning to ‘Send a Signal'

Anton Novoderezhkin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Hardly a week goes by when Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t threaten to nuke someone or someplace. The latest reference to nuking someone came last Friday when he formally annexed the Ukrainian oblasts of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson (read Putin’s Illegal Annexation of Ukrainian Territory Marks the Beginning of a War Without a Perceivable End and Putin’s Ukraine Annexation Speech Told Us What to Expect From Russia and It Is up to Us to Pay Attention). In his speech, Putin pledged:


We will defend our land with all the forces and resources we have, and we will do everything we can to ensure the safety of our people.

And for the last four days has seen his army evicted from several hundred square miles of “our land.”

So when The Telegraph reported that Russian nuclear forces were on the move (Nuclear weapons convoy sparks fears Putin could be preparing test to send ‘signal to the West’), people clicked to find out. “Clicked” being the operative word. It was quickly picked up by other outlets (here | here | here). Even this morning, it is still atop Twitter’s “Trending” list.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. So, in search of the real story, I’m going to quote extensively from the “nuclear weapons convoy” part of the story.

A Russian convoy transporting equipment for Russia’s nuclear weapons programme has sparked fears that Vladimir Putin could be preparing a test to send a “signal to the West”.

A train operated by the secretive nuclear division and linked to the 12th main directorate of the Russian ministry of defence was spotted in central Russia over the weekend heading towards the front line in Ukraine.

The pro-Russian Telegram channel Rybar shared the footage showing the large freight convoy hauling upgraded armoured personnel carriers and other equipment.

Konrad Muzyka, a defence analyst specialising in Ukraine, said the 12th directorate operated a dozen central storage facilities for nuclear weapons.

“This is actually a kit belonging to the 12th Main Directorate of the Russian MoD,” The Poland-based analyst said. “The directorate is responsible for nuclear munitions, their storage, maintenance, transport, and issuance to units.”

Mr Muzyka said it could be a “signalling to the West that Moscow is escalating,” in reference to Vladimir Putin’s nuclear war warning last week.

However, the expert stressed that the video in no way shows “preparations for a nuclear release”.


The sole source for the reporting is a Russian milblogger going by the handle of @rybar on Telegram. Note there are no defense or diplomatic sources validating this story. I suspect “rybar” is multiple people (I don’t see how one person can turn out a couple of animated videos per day in two languages in addition to his other posts) and is a formal or informal adjunct to the Russian government because of the range of his contacts. If you follow my Ukraine commentary, you’ll see I use his material so long as it is possible to follow Ronald Reagan’s dictum: Doveryay, no proveryay.

Arms Control expert Jeffrey Lewis examined the proof that the train belongs to the “12th Main Directorate” and that it contains “a kit” unique to transporting nuclear weapons. Keep in mind that the limits of proof are the assertion of a Russian milblogger uncritically passed on by The Telegraph and the opinion of a “defence analyst specializing in Ukraine” but not Russian nuclear forces.

The “kit” referred to as belonging to the “12th Main Directorate” is a new variety of remotely operated turret on some vehicles. This vehicle type is all the proof that the train was carrying nuclear weapons.


Along with this warning, the article claims Russia is also planning to “test” a nuclear submarine drone.


It comes as sources told The Times that Nato had sent an intelligence report to its members and allies alerting them to the fact that Russia is expected to test its nuclear-capable torpedo drone Poseidon, possibly in the Black Sea, which it controls.

The Poseidon torpedo, dubbed the “weapon of the apocalypse”, can be launched from the submarine. According to La Repubblica newspaper, it is about to be tested in the area of the Kara Sea, north of the Russian mainland.

Mind you; there is no claim that the Russians are planning to set off a nuclear blast but merely that they might be about to test the new weapon system.

The bottom line is the story is unsourced speculation. There is no evidence that the vehicles or train are associated with Russia’s nuclear weapons. Moreover, even if the vehicles and train are associated with a nuclear weapon, their movement would not be out of the ordinary. In short, the purpose of the article seems to have been to take advantage of Russia’s nuclear pee-pee wagging to draw eyeballs.

None of this is to say that Putin can’t have a bad bowl of borscht and decide to pop a nuke just to show everyone who the czar is. It is only to say that this is not a sign that he’s about to do it.



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