The Russian military scheduled large nuclear-weapons drills on Friday, a dramatic reminder of the country’s nuclear might amid Western fears that Moscow is planning an invasion of Ukraine.
The drill, which will include repeated mock launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, will be personally overseen by Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the Defense Ministry.
Putin will witness the drills from the Defense Ministry’s situation room and supervise the practise missile launches directly, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
The operations, according to the ministry, were planned a long time ago to test the military command and personnel’s readiness, as well as the reliability of Russia’s nuclear and conventional weapons.
The drills come after US Vice President Joe Biden warned on Thursday that Russia might attack Ukraine in a matter of days.
Western concerns centre on an estimated 150,000 Russian troops stationed near Ukraine’s borders, accounting for around 60% of Russia’s total field forces. The Kremlin maintains that no invasion is planned.
Moscow, on the other hand, has requested that the United States and its allies keep Ukraine and other former Soviet republics out of NATO, refrain from deploying armaments in Ukraine, and withdraw NATO forces from Eastern Europe.
Moscow vowed to use unspecified “military-technical measures” if the West continued to stonewall. Washington and its allies flatly rejected the Russian demands.
Russia conducts huge training of its strategic nuclear forces every year, but the manoeuvres scheduled for Saturday will feature the Black Sea Fleet specifically. Russia acquired the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, and the fleet is based there.
Although the Black Sea Fleet has surface vessels and submarines equipped with Kalibr cruise missiles, it lacks intercontinental ballistic missiles and has not participated in prior strategic drills.
Russia has performed yearly strategic forces training in the fall in the past. Officials in the United States have expressed worry that Moscow moved the drill to February to coincide with a possible invasion of Ukraine.
According to Peskov of the Kremlin, Russia informed foreign partners about the manoeuvres ahead of time, and the drill should not create concern in the West.
“Ballistic missile practise launches are part of routine training,” he stated. “A sequence of notices to other nations via various routes precedes them.”
Putin met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, inviting him to see the manoeuvres on Saturday.
The dictator Lukashenko has volunteered to host Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north, despite Western sanctions for his crackdown on domestic unrest.
Both Russia and the United States have a nuclear triad consisting of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-based ICBMs, and nuclear-capable bombers in their strategic forces.
The nuclear force exercise comes after a series of large-scale manoeuvres conducted by the Russian military near Ukraine and in Belarus.
After the drills, the Russian military said it began returning some of the troops stationed near Ukraine to their regular locations. The United States and its allies scoffed at the notion, claiming that Moscow had pushed thousands of fresh troops closer to Ukraine.
Moscow countered that the withdrawal would take time and dismissed Western criticism, stating that troops would be deployed wherever necessary to ensure national security.