“The signature equipment that is being seen is a BPM-97 armoured vehicle which we know the 12th Directorate have but it is a utility vehicle which we see throughout Russian force such as the Border Guard,” he said.
These vehicles are highlighted in this photo of the train released on Russian social media. Analysts have noted they may feature a rare combination of weaponry, including a 30mm cannon and grenade launcher. It is unclear which units operate this version of the vehicle.
It is also not unlikely that the vehicles seen in the video could just be part of a resupply to Russian units due to losses suffered over almost eight months of war.
McKenzie warned: “At this time of year we would expect to see 12th Directorate exercising and that is not unusual. NATO units do the same thing, in fact all countries that have a nuclear capability do that.”
One possible explanation is that these movements are a warning to the West. As McKenzie explains, these movements are “something that is very visible from space. It shows capability and demonstrates if Russia wanted to use tactical weapons, it could do”.
But reports of a possible nuclear escalation should be treated with caution.
“I would strongly argue Russia doesn’t have the opportunity to deploy nuclear weapons. It is a one-way ticket to losing, we’ve been told that clearly and in no uncertain terms by NATO,” McKenzie said.
“At no point have the ground forces on the Russian side been seen to be preparing to operate in a nuclear environment.
“There are very particular units that need to be brought forward in order to deploy nuclear capabilities and troops on the ground need to be equipped with hazmat suits. We’ve not seen any of that take place.”
Meanwhile, a senior pentagon official has said the US has “nothing to corroborate” reports of Russians moving tactical nuclear weapons by rail.
The official added they see no indication Russia would cause the US to alter its position on nuclear threat.
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