Putin to take part in nuclear war drills
Russian President Vladimir Putin will take direct command of scheduled ballistic missile training on Saturday, which will see the country’s military test its nuclear capabilities, Moscow has confirmed.
Officials released a statement on Friday, writing, “on February 19, under the supervision of the supreme commander-in-chief of the Russian Armed Forces Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, a planned exercise of the forces of strategic deterrence will take place, during which ballistic and cruise missiles will be launched.”
The statement goes on to explain that the drills were scheduled “to check the preparedness of the military organs, launch crews, and the crews of warships and missile carriers to carry out their tasks, and to test the reliability of strategic nuclear and non-nuclear weaponry.” The Kremlin has since explained that drills of this nature, which involve the chain of command in the event of a nuclear attack, are not possible without the head of state.
Russia has been carrying out large-scale military exercises this past week, including joint drills in neighboring Belarus, near the border with Ukraine. Western leaders have claimed that the exercises could be preparation for the invasion of Ukraine that US sources have been warning about for months. Moscow has repeatedly denied that it has any aggressive intentions, and has insisted that it is simply carrying out scheduled drills and that its forces will return home when they are finished.
On Tuesday, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that it was pulling out some troops who had completed their training in Belarus, the first sign of a significant drawdown since the West began warning of a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine last November.
American officials, however, have said that they see no evidence of a genuine withdrawal, with one anonymous official telling reporters that Moscow had actually bolstered its forces by 7,000. On Thursday, US President Joe Biden said that he expected Russia to attack Ukraine in the next several days. Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov rejected the accusation, saying that it “elevates tensions.”