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Russia is likely removing nuclear warheads from cruise missiles and firing them into Ukraine, the UK says

Russia is likely removing nuclear warheads from cruise missiles and firing them into Ukraine, the UK says
ukraine soldier phone
A Ukrainian soldier speaks on his smartphone outside a residential building damaged by a missile on February 25, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.Pierre Crom/Getty Images
  • Russia is likely firing cruise missiles with nuclear warheads removed into Ukraine, UK's defense ministry said.

  • The improvisation demonstrates how depleted Russia's stocks of long-range missiles are, it said.

  • It said that the unarmed munitions are "almost certainly" being used as decoys to distract Ukrainian air defenses.

Russia is likely removing the nuclear warheads from aging cruise missiles and firing them into Ukraine, the UK Ministry of Defense said on Saturday.

The improvisation indicates how depleted Russia's stocks of long-range missiles are, it said.

The defense ministry said that open source imagery appeared to show an AS-15 KENT air-launched cruise missile that had been shot down in Ukraine.

The missile was designed in the 1980s to be used as a nuclear delivery system, and the department noted that the nuclear warhead had likely been replaced with ballast, some kind of heavy material to balance it.

Such an "inert system" can still produce some damage through the missile's kinetic energy and unspent fuel, according to the department.

However, the unarmed munitions are "almost certainly" being used as decoys to confuse Ukrainian air defenses, the department said, as they are unlikely to achieve any "reliable effects on intended targets."

Russian warship launching a cruise missile.
Russian warship launching a cruise missile.Russian Defense Ministry Press Service/AP

Ukrainian and western officials have previously suggested that Russia's stockpiles of missiles and shells are rapidly dwindling, following Moscow amping up missile attacks on infrastructure targets across Ukraine.

US officials previously said that Russia is likely struggling to replenish its stockpiles due to sanctions and supply chain disruptions, the Associated Press reported.

Russia has not provided any information about its missile supplies, and there is no data to assess it independently.

Read the original article on Business Insider