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Putin sends bombers to key nuke base, satellite images show

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Nikolsky Alexei/TASS/Zuma Press/TNS)
October 03, 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently sent nuclear-capable bombers to a critical Russian military installation where the country keeps part of its nuclear arsenal. The move is the latest sign that Putin may deploy nuclear weapons.

The Israeli satellite intelligence firm ImageSat International was the first to detect an “irregular presence” of Russian Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic bombers at Russia’s Olenya Air Base, the Jerusalem Post reported. The base is located in the northwest of Russia, near its border with Finland, and hosts a number of Russian nuclear weapons.

Journalist Donald Standeford shared ImageSat’s photos showing the Russian bombers parked on a runway at the Olenya Air Base.

Satellite photos captured by ImageSat showed four Tu-160s at the Russian nuclear weapons base on Aug. 21st. The firm spotted three additional Tu-95 bombers at the base last week, on Sept. 25.

“Through ongoing Patterns-of-Life, the system indicates that Engels air base is the possible departure point of the strategic bombers detected in Olenya airbase,” the satellite intelligence firm reported.

Engels Air Base is the long-range Russian bomber closest to Ukraine. The base is home to the 121st Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment.

It is unclear why the Engels-based bombers were repositioned to the Olenya Air Base.

The move comes as Russia has seen setbacks in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, and as Putin has made multiple new indications he may use nuclear weapons.

While ordering a partial military mobilization of 300,000 reserve forces last month, Putin accused the U.S. and other western nations of committing “nuclear blackmail” against Russia. He then said, “I would like to remind those who make such statements regarding Russia that our country has different types of weapons as well, and some of them are more modern than the weapons NATO countries have.”

“In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us,” Putin added. “This is not a bluff.”

In another speech last week, Putin appeared to justify a potential nuclear attack, saying the U.S. had already “set a precedent” for such action when they bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan to bring about an end to World War II.

Russia has already made nuclear threats specifically aimed at Finland and Sweden.

After Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland began discussions on joining the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In response, Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened that Russia could deploy nuclear weapons to the Baltic region.

Several U.S. surveillance aircraft have been spotted flying around the Russian Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad in recent days. The surveillance flights could be searching for any activity from Russian nuclear forces.