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Threats of nuclear response, Kherson evacuation

Russia doubled down on its warning that Kyiv is preparing to use a “dirty bomb” in Ukraine and sent a letter to the UN stating that it will regard the use of such a bomb by Ukraine as an “act of nuclear terrorism”. Moscow added it would present the issue to the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

With Ukrainian forces advancing into Russian-occupied Kherson province, top Russian officials had phoned their Western counterparts on Sunday and Monday to air their suspicions. The foreign ministers of France, Britain and the United States rejected Moscow’s allegations as “transparently false” and reiterated their support for Ukraine.

“The world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation,” they said in a joint statement.

I spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister @DmytroKuleba today to discuss the United States’ continued support for Ukraine and to reject Russia’s false allegations that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb on its own territory.

— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) October 23, 2022

Later, the United States issued a warning to Russia. “We’ve been very clear with the Russians … about the severe consequences that would result from nuclear use,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price. “There would be consequences for Russia whether it uses a dirty bomb or a nuclear bomb,” he added.

US officials said there was no indication Russia had decided to use a dirty bomb or any nuclear weapon. “We continue to see nothing in the way of preparations by the Russian side for the use of nuclear weapons,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Kherson “Evacuation”

Russia has ordered civilians to evacuate territory it controls on the western bank of the Dnipro River, where Ukrainian forces have been advancing this month, shortly after Russia claimed to have annexed the area.

On Oct. 18, Moscow's proxies in occupied Kherson announced an organized relocation of Ukrainians to the Dnipro River’s east bank, away from the city. Many media, even some in Ukraine, called it an evacuation.

The Kyiv Independent explains why it’s a dangerously wrong label.

— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) October 24, 2022

A defeat for Russia would be one of its biggest setbacks since its invasion.

Ukrainian Air Assault troops from the 25th Brigade and their vehicles.
East of Ukraine.

— Walter Report 🇺🇦 (@walter_report) October 25, 2022

Ukraine’s military said Russian-installed authorities in Kherson were evacuating banks, administrative facilities, and emergency service and medical personnel. It also added that robberies and looting had increased.

Kherson’s regional capital is the only big city Russia has captured intact since the start of the invasion. The province controls the gateway to Crimea, the peninsula Russia seized and claimed to annex in 2014.

Pro-Russian authorities in Kherson announced on Monday that men who stay would have the option of joining a military self-defence unit. Kyiv accuses Russia of press-ganging men in occupied areas into military formations, a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.

Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military spy chief, said Russian forces were preparing to defend Kherson city, not retreat.

They are creating the illusion that all is lost. Yet at the same time they are moving new military units in and preparing to defend the streets of Kherson,” he told the Ukrainska Pravda, an online media outlet.

The bigger picture

Since Russia’s forces suffered major defeats in September, President Vladimir Putin has escalated the war, calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists, announcing the annexation of occupied territory and repeatedly threatening to use nuclear weapons to defend Russian land.

This month, Russia started a campaign using long-range cruise missiles and Iranian-made drones to attack Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

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