Russian forces are striking Ukraine with Cold War-era nuclear missiles – with the nuclear warheads removed, crucially – according to British intelligence.
“Russia is likely removing the nuclear warheads from aging nuclear cruise missiles and firing the unarmed munitions at Ukraine,” the Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed in its Saturday update on the course of the Russo-Ukrainian war, citing “[o]pen source imagery show[ing] wreckage of an apparently shot-down AS-15 KENT air launched cruise missile (ALCM), designed in the 1980s exclusively as a nuclear delivery system. ”
AS-15 “Kent” is the NATO reporting name for what Russia refers to as the Kh-55, with the MoD suggesting that even without its nuclear payload “an inert system will still produce some damage through the missile’s kinetic energy and any unspent fuel” — although they added that it “unlikely to achieve reliable effects against intended targets” in this disarmed state.
“Russia almost certainly hopes such missiles will function as decoys and divert Ukrainian air defences,” the British suggested — an errant Ukrainian air defence missile is believed to have struck Poland in recent weeks, killing two civilians in the NATO country — but that “[w]hatever Russia’s intent, this improvisation highlights the level of depletion in Russia’s stock of long-range missiles.”