Ukraine update: Russia practices 'massive nuclear strike' – USA TODAY

The Kremlin acknowledged Wednesday what has been voiced repeatedly on news outlets and social media for weeks: A large number of Russia’s new draftees have not being properly equipped for combat.
Last week’s photo-op showing President Vladimir Putin visiting a training center full of well-outfitted soldiers did not represent the reality on the ground for many of the 220,000-plus civilians forced into service by Putin’s mobilization, announced Sept. 21. Russian families have complained of having to buy battlefield gear for their drafted sons, brothers, etc., and of them being sent to war with scant training. Some have also reported lack of food and ammunition.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov recognized persistent problems with equipment, though he said “vigorous measures taken to rectify the situation are already yielding the first positive results.”
That still doesn’t address the issue of unprepared recruits being forced to go to war. When asked by a reporter why several reservists had died in Ukraine only three weeks after being called up, Putin said training could last between 10 and 25 days.
Military analyst Pavel Luzin, a visiting scholar at Tufts University, said Russia’s incapable of training all the draftees. “The army was not ready for mobilization,” he said. “It never prepared for it.”
BIDEN WARNS MOSCOW:Using nukes would be ‘serious mistake’
Other developments:
►Months after suspending operations in Russia because of the war, automakers Ford and Mercedes-Benz said they’re selling their assets in the country.
►The U.S. said Wednesday that it’s imposing sanctions on 21 individuals and entities in response to Russia’s “malign influence campaigns and systemic corruption” aimed at influencing the politics of Moldova, which shares a border with Ukraine.
►Ukraine’s largest private energy company, DTEK, says it has lost roughly $40 million since Oct. 10, when Russia started its “catastrophic” targeting of the country’s energy infrastructure sites.
►Russian and Belarusian ambassadors have been excluded from this year’s Nobel Prize ceremony set in Stockholm on Dec. 10, the Nobel Foundation announced.
Russia’s Strategic Deterrence Forces conducted a successful training exercise Wednesday aimed at delivering a “massive nuclear strike” in response to a potential nuclear attack on the country, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
The exercise, overseen by President Vladimir Putin, involved mobile ground-based missile systems and the strategic missile submarine Tula of Russia’s Northern Fleet. The Kremlin said in a statement that all the test-fired missiles reached their targets.
The Biden administration said Russia provided advance notice of the annual drills. NATO is carrying out its own long-planned annual nuclear exercises in northwestern Europe.
Speaking on Russian TV, Putin echoed for the first time the unsubstantiated allegations his officials have been making that Ukraine intends to use a so-called dirty bomb “as a provocation,” a charge vehemently denied by Ukraine and its Western allies.
U.S. experts have theorized that Russia is either considering its own “false flag” dirty bomb explosion or using the narrative to drum up more support for the war at home. 
The body of U.S. Army veteran Joshua Alan Jones, killed while fighting in Ukraine, was returned to Ukrainian authorities Wednesday in a swap with the Russian military.
Andrii Yermak, head of the Ukraine president’s office, said on Telegram that 10 Ukrainian prisoners of war, including one officer and nine enlisted soldiers, were released from Russian captivity at the same time. Yermak did not reveal how many Russians were released.
“We will continue to work until we bring all our people home,” Yermak said.
The U.S. State Department notified the family about the body’s return, Jones’ father, Jeff Jones, told CNN. Neither the Pentagon nor the U.S. State Department immediately responded to USA TODAY. Joshua Jones’ family had posted a brief statement on Facebook in August acknowledging his death and saying “our main goal is to get his body home.”
“I cannot tell you what a burden is lifted off this family,” Jeff Jones told CNN.
Popular Russian TV host Ksenia Sobchak, a former challenger to Putin in the presidential election, has become a suspect in an extortion case involving state-owned defense contractor Rostec, state-run TASS reported. The media outlet said Sobchak, who could face a prison sentence of up to 15 years if convicted, has fled the country. Almost everyone who is charged with a crime in Russia is convicted. Sobchak’s commercial director, Kirill Sukhanov, and former editor-in-chief Arian Romanovsky were detained pending charges.
Sobchak has often been critical of Putin, and the case alleges payments were demanded in return for guarantees that government officials would not receive critical coverage from Sobchak’s news channels. Sobchack, 40, was a liberal challenger in Russia’s 2018 presidential election, finishing a distant fourth with about 1.7% of the vote.
FROM AUGUST:A Memphis man died at war in Ukraine. His family is now trying to retrieve his remains.
Contributing: The Associated Press

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