IOver the past 24 hours there have been concerned reports of movements by Russian forces. The pro-Russian military blog Rybar published a video on Telegram on Sunday showing a rolling freight train with armored vehicles said to belong to the 12th Main Directorate of the Russian Defense Ministry. The department is responsible for maintaining the state’s nuclear arsenal. The British tabloid “Daily Mail” wrote of a “nuclear military train” on the move, representing a “possible warning to the West”.
At the same time, the Italian daily newspaper “La Repubblica” wrote about an intelligence message from NATO to its members. In it, the alliance reportedly warned that the Russian nuclear submarine K-329 Belgorod had “disappeared” from its port in northern Russia. The alliance should therefore be concerned that the Belgorod could test its Poseidon underwater drone, which can be equipped with nuclear equipment.
Russian threats to use nuclear weapons are increasingly unnerving in the West, especially against the backdrop of retreating Russian troops in Ukraine and Putin’s increasing loss of sovereignty over the war in the neighboring country.
No evidence of nuclear train
With regard to the freight train, several Western experts considered the concern unfounded. Nuclear weapons are transported in special wagons that cannot be seen on the video recordings, American proliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis wrote on Twitter. And even these transports can be observed constantly in Russia.
The armored vehicles and trucks that Rybar shows are obviously not well suited for transporting nuclear warheads. The direction in which the train is traveling cannot be seen from the recordings either. There is no evidence of a transport in the direction of Ukraine. If so, western satellites would be able to track him.
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The case of the Belgorod is a little different. It is not unusual that the submarine, which was only commissioned in July, can no longer be seen. Basically, submarines are difficult to identify, especially when they are submerged. In addition, the Belgorod probably has modern camouflage devices. However, NATO probably assumes that it has set out on secret tests in the waters around the Russian twin island of Novaya Zemlya. Numerous nuclear weapons tests were carried out on the island and in its waters during Soviet times.
The question is how far Russia has progressed in the development of the Poseidon nuclear drone. Four years ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised them as one of several miracle weapons. On May 1 of this year, a video was shown on Russian state television in which a nuclear strike against Great Britain was carried out with the help of a Poseidon mission in the eastern Atlantic, which was completely destroyed as a result.
Western experts regard Poseidon as a completely new type of weapon. It is said to be capable of firing a nuclear torpedo with a yield of up to 100 megatons. An explosion off the British coast, it is said, would trigger a radioactive tidal wave several hundred meters high that would bury everything under it. According to Russian information, Poseidon should be able to reach a speed of over 100 kilometers per hour, be able to dive down to 1000 meters and have a very large operational range. It is difficult to say to what extent these values are actually achieved or whether this is propaganda.
Western experts have assumed that the underwater drone will only be ready for use in a few years. If the Belgorod actually tests the drone, it should show whether the assumption was correct.
NATO did not want to comment on the train or the submarine on Tuesday. A spokesman for the alliance told the ANSA news agency about Belgorod: “We make no comment on alleged information leaks or secret service details.”
Fox journalist Jennifer Griffin reported on Twitter citing an unnamed American government official that after Putin’s recent nuclear threats, no unusual activities in connection with Moscow’s nuclear arsenal have been identified so far.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Kremlin rejected at least reports of a planned nuclear test on Russia’s border with Ukraine. “Western media, Western politicians and heads of state are currently engaging in nuclear rhetoric,” Russian Presidential Office spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in Moscow. “We don’t want to get involved in that.”