MOSCOW — The Kremlin said that Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday monitored drills of the country’s strategic nuclear forces involving multiple practice launches of ballistic and cruise missiles.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin that the drills were intended to simulate a “massive nuclear strike” by Russia in retaliation to a nuclear attack on Russia. The exercise comes amid soaring Russia-West tensions over Moscow’s action in Ukraine.

The Kremlin said in a statement that all tasks set for the exercise were fulfilled and all the missiles that were test-fired reached their designated targets.

Washington has said that Moscow informed it about Wednesday’s drills in advance.

The Russian exercise comes amid Moscow’s warnings of a purported Ukrainian plot to detonate a dirty bomb radioactive device in a false flag attack to blame Russia, a claim strongly rejected by Ukraine and its allies.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS:

— Putin scrambles to boost weapons production for Ukraine war

— Opposition leader says Belarus shouldn’t fight for Russia

— Brutal Russian general led troops that killed civilians

— Russia seeks UN probe of claims on Ukraine biological labs

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

MOSCOW — Russia’s defense minister has called his counterparts from India and China to convey Moscow’s concern about a purported Ukrainian plan to use an explosive device that scatters radiation, repeating a claim that has been refuted by Ukraine and the West.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Sergei Shoigu voiced Moscow’s concern about “possible Ukrainian provocations involving a “dirty bomb’” when he spoke with India’s Rajnath Singh and China’s Wei Fenghe.

The conversations followed calls with British, French, Turkish and U.S. officials Sunday in which Shoigu made the same claim. The governments of Britain, France and the United States rejected it as “transparently false.”

Despite the Western dismissals, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted Moscow has “information” showing Ukraine could use of a dirty bomb.

A dirty bomb uses explosives to scatter radioactive waste in an effort to sow terror. Such weapons don’t have the devastating destruction of a nuclear explosion, but could expose broad areas to radioactive contamination.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say Russia has targeted more than 40 towns around Ukraine over the past day, killing at least two more people and sustaining the terror that forces people into air raid shelters each night.

The general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said Wednesday that Russian forces launched five rockets, 30 air strikes and more than 100 multiple-launch rocket system attacks on Ukrainian targets.

The developments come as fears are growing that Russia, facing setbacks on the battlefield, could try to detonate a so-called dirty bomb, which uses explosives to scatter radioactive waste in an effort to sow terror.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine