As Ukraine’s counteroffensive in Russian-occupied territory gains momentum and hardline critics within Russia call for more drastic measures to regain the initiative, a spate of reports about Moscow preparing nuclear weapons has made its way through international media outlets.

The pro-Russian Telegram channel Rybar shared a video on Sunday, Oct. 2 showing a freight train hauling upgraded armored personnel carriers and other sophisticated military equipment through central Russia.

British news outlets The Daily Mail and The Times reported that the advanced military hardware belonged to the 12th Main Directorate of the Russian Ministry of Defense, which is responsible for the safekeeping, technical maintenance, transportation, delivery and disposal of Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

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Also on Sunday, as the videos and photos made their way through social media, Italian newspaper La Repubblica published an article citing anonymous sources claiming that NATO has sent an intelligence note to its member countries warning of the mobilization of the K-329 Belgorod Russian nuclear submarine, carrying the Poseidon nuclear missile, also known as the Weapon of the Apocalypse.

NATO has not yet commented on La Repubblica’s reports.

The anti-disinformation branch of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, notes that such unsubstantiated statements by the media only amplify the Russian Federation’s informational terrorism.

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This speculation and rhetoric come in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s speech calling for a partial mobilization, in which he said his country had “various weapons of destruction” and would “use all the means available to us” – even emphasizing that “I’m not bluffing.”

Raising tensions even higher are various calls from Russian hardliners such as Chechen strongman and Chechen Republic leader Ramzan Kadyrov, arch-propagandist Vladimir Solovyov, and even former President Dmitry Medvedev, who have all been faster and looser with their nuclear threats than even Putin.

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Solovyov has repeatedly raised the specter of using a nuclear strike to defend Russia’s interests. A recent Telegram tirade was in response to the EU denying Russians tourist visas: “The refusal to issue visas to Russian citizens and the declaration of the Russian Federation as an accomplice of terrorism, puts an end to relations with Europe. This means the actual entry into the war with Russia. Severing ties, supplying weapons is direct participation in the war … This is a real threat to the existence of Russia and can lead to the use of the doctrine of a preventive nuclear strike.”

After Kyiv took back Lyman in eastern Ukraine just days ago, Kadyrov used his Telegram channel to lambaste top commanders for their incompetence, saying: “In my personal opinion, more drastic measures should be taken, right up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons.”

Adding to the chorus, Medvedev posted a similar threat on Telegram: “Let’s imagine that Russia is forced to use the most fearsome weapon against the Ukrainian regime which had committed a large-scale act of aggression that is dangerous for the very existence of our state.”

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Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian presidential chief-of-staff, said that the response to Russia’s nuclear blackmail must be tough, otherwise nuclear non-proliferation agreements will be useless.

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