Ukrainian military accuses Russia of launching dummy nuclear-capable missiles

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Children look at a crater created by an explosion in a residential area after Russian shelling in Solonka, Lviv region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Mykola Tys) Mykola Tys/AP

Ukrainian military accuses Russia of launching dummy nuclear-capable missiles

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Ukraine’s military is accusing Russian forces of launching nuclear-capable missiles fitted with nonexplosive warheads in an effort to exhaust Ukraine’s air defenses.

Mykola Danyliuk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian armed forces’ research unit, told reporters Thursday that the fragments of a Russian Kh-55 cruise missile that landed in the regions of Lviv and Khmelnytskyi in western Ukraine on Oct. 31 did not show abnormal levels of radioactivity, meaning “it didn’t have contact with nuclear elements,” he said, according to Reuters.

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“The use of such missiles is intended to distract the attention of Ukraine’s air defense system and tire it out,” Danyliuk added, though he also noted that the missile, even without a nuclear warhead, can cause significant damage. “I would also like to add that even a missile without a warhead, a missile with a warhead like this, poses a great threat because of its kinetic energy and fuel. This is evidenced by … the impact of a Kh-55 missile into a residential building.”

“This is a substitute for a thermo-nuclear guided charge,” the spokesman said.

The Kh-55 missiles, which were designed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s, that Ukraine was able to investigate had their serial numbers scratched out.

This fall, Russian forces changed their military strategy, putting a much larger emphasis on hitting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Western leaders have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of attempting to weaponize winter against the millions of Ukrainian civilians who have already faced blackouts, no heat, and no electricity as the temperature has dropped.

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The United States will provide more than $53 million to Ukraine to support its efforts to repair the destroyed critical infrastructure that Russia has spent weeks deliberately targeting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced earlier this week.

The U.S. and other NATO allies have provided various air defense systems to Ukraine throughout the nine-month war, while Ukrainian leaders have continued to ask for more advanced systems. The administration is contemplating sending the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine in an attempt to bolster their air defenses, though Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said earlier this week that “right now, we have no plans to provide Patriot batteries to Ukraine, but again, we’ll continue to have those discussions.”

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