A police officer inspects parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle, what Ukrainian authorities consider to be an Iranian-made suicide drone.
U.S. has received no fresh intelligence indicating that Russian President Vladimir Putin was preparing to act on his threat to use nuclear weapons, U.S. officials said Friday, following unusually sharp comments from President Biden that warned of the “prospect of Armageddon.”
Ukraine, meanwhile, warned about the threat of Iranian drones against civilian infrastructure by Russian forces as Kyiv continued a push to recapture territory with the help of weapons stockpiles seized from retreating Russian troops.
Mr. Biden said late Thursday that Mr. Putin “wasn’t joking” when he threatened nuclear strikes to escalate the war after a weekslong Ukrainian offensive gained significant ground in the east of the country.
“We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Mr. Biden said at a Democratic fundraiser on Thursday night, suggesting that Mr. Putin could take that step “because his military is— you might say—significantly underperforming.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that Mr. Biden’s comments showed how seriously the administration is taking Mr. Putin’s threats. “We have not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture, nor do we have indications they are preparing to use them, but Putin can de-escalate this at any time,” she said.
The White House and Pentagon have said in recent days that the U.S. has seen no indications that Mr. Putin is imminently preparing to use nuclear weapons, but have condemned what they described as nuclear Neither of the top two officials in the U.S. military, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen.
Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, has been in regular contact with their Russian counterparts. But the U.S. has directly warned Moscow of the poten- tial consequences of using a nuclear weapon, officials said.
Ukraine, meanwhile, said Russia has used Shahed-136 suicide drones supplied by Iran to strike deep inside Ukrainian territory this week, highlighting a growing challenge for Kyiv as it wages a successful campaign to push Russia back in the south and east. The small drones pose a new challenge for Ukraine’s air defenses, flying at low altitudes that make them difficult to detect, military analysts say.
A drone attack early Wednesday hit a military headThe quarters about 50 miles south of Kyiv, causing severe damage to the facility and surrounding infrastructure and spreading fear among civilians. Drones struck again in Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine on Thursday, local authorities said.
“People see them in the sky. We shoot them down. But we are being told that somehow they’re not here,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Thursday speech. “Well then, we’ll find ways to make sure they really aren’t here.”
Oleksiy Hromov, a Ukrainian military spokesman, said Thursday that Ukraine has destroyed 60% of the 86 Shahed-136 drones Russia has used as part of its military campaign. The Ukrainian military previously said that it was seeing increasing use of drones by Russia as Moscow’s supply of highprecision missiles dwindles.
The Kremlin denied reports that Iran had supplied it with drones when information first emerged in August.
The attacks come as Ukraine is continuing to retake swaths of territory controlled for months by Russia, which has sought to reverse its losses in recent weeks by mobilizing tens of thousands of reservists and seeking to absorb areas of Ukraine to ward off attacks from Kyiv’s forces.
In his speech, Mr. Zelensky said Ukrainian forces had libsaber-rattling. erated more than 200 square miles of Russian-occupied territory in the southern Kherson region since the start of the month, and would continue their offensive all the way to the recapture of the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
The offensive is being aided by Western weapons that have helped shift the balance in Ukraine. On Friday, President Emmanuel Macron said France is planning to send six new truck-mounted howitzers to Ukraine in addition to the 18 it has sent since the beginning of the war. He also announced plans to create a special fund initially set at 100 million euros, equivalent to about $98 million, to enable Ukraine to buy equipment directly from French industrial companies.
As Kyiv pushes into Russianheld territory, breaking through Russian lines and threatening its forces in Ukraine’s east and south, Western analysts say a large proportion of its military arsenal is now made up of weapons captured from retreating Russian troops.
The U.K. Defense Ministry said Friday that more than half of Ukraine’s active tank fleet might consist of captured Russian vehicles, and that Kyiv likely seized at least 440 mainbattle tanks and some 650 other armored vehicles since the invasion began in February.
“The failure of Russian crews to destroy intact equipment before withdrawing or surrendering highlights their poor state of training and low levels of battle discipline,” the ministry said. “With Russian formations under severe strain in several sectors and increasingly demoralized troops, Russia will likely continue to lose heavy weaponry.”
Washington warns Moscow of possible retaliation for use of nuclear weapons