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Putin watches exercises of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces

The drills come amid a series of chilling comments from Moscow suggesting the war in Ukraine could go nuclear.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has monitored exercises by the country’s strategic nuclear forces that involve multiple practice launches of cruise and ballistic missiles, in a show of force amid heightened tensions with the West over the Ukraine conflict.

Wednesday’s drills come amid a series of chilling comments from Moscow and Putin, who watched the drills from a control room, suggesting the eight-month conflict in Ukraine could go nuclear.

“Under the leadership of… Vladimir Putin, a training session with land, sea and air strategic deterrent forces was held, during which practical launches of cruise and ballistic missiles were carried out,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

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Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed Putin that the exercise was intended to simulate a “massive nuclear strike” by Russia in retaliation for a nuclear strike against the country.

The maneuvers followed Putin’s warning about his willingness to use “all available means” to defend against attacks on Russian territory in a clear reference to the country’s nuclear arsenals.

Russian state media published images of the crew of a submarine preparing to launch a Sineva ballistic missile from the Barents Sea in the Arctic.

During Russian drills on Wednesday, a Yars land-based intercontinental ballistic missile was tested from the northern Plesetsk launch site.

The drills also included test missile launches from the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East.

In this handout photo taken from a video released by the Press Service of the Russian Defense Ministry on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, the Russian navy's Tula nuclear submarine is on a mission to conduct a practice launch of a ballistic missile intercontinental as part of the exercises of the country's nuclear forces.  Russian President Vladimir Putin has monitored exercises by the country's strategic nuclear forces that involve multiple practice launches of cruise and ballistic missiles.  The Kremlin said in a statement that all test missiles hit their designated targets.  (Russian Defense Ministry press service via AP)
The Russian Navy Tula nuclear submarine en route to practice launching an intercontinental ballistic missile [Russian Defence Ministry Press Service via AP Photo]

As part of the exercise, Tu-95 strategic bombers also launched cruise missiles at practice targets.

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The Kremlin said in a statement that all tasks set for the exercise had been accomplished and that all missiles that were tested hit their designated targets.

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The Russian exercises came as NATO was conducting its own annual nuclear exercises in northwestern Europe that will run until October 30.

The NATO drills, dubbed the “Steadfast Noon,” involve about 60 aircraft, including the United States’ B-52 long-range bombers and warplanes capable of carrying nuclear weapons, but do not involve live bombs.

Russian exercises involving land, sea and air components of the nuclear triad have been held annually to train the country’s nuclear forces and demonstrate their readiness. An earlier such exercise was held just days before Putin sent troops to Ukraine.

The administration of US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that Russia had given notice that it intended to conduct routine drills of its nuclear capabilities. The Pentagon and the US State Department said Russia had complied with the terms of the latest US-Russian arms control agreement by notifying Washington of the upcoming tests.

Moscow alleges “irresponsible behavior”

The images of the drills in state media came after Shoigu followed through with phone calls to his counterparts around the world, claiming that Ukraine was developing a “dirty bomb”.

A dirty bomb is a conventional bomb mixed with radioactive, biological, or chemical materials that are spread in an explosion.

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Shoigu, who has made these claims in recent days to representatives of NATO countries, also called his Chinese and Indian counterparts on Wednesday to discuss the allegation, which Ukraine and its Western allies have strongly rejected.

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Putin himself repeated the dirty bomb claim on Wednesday. “We are aware of plans to use the so-called dirty bomb for provocations,” he said.

Ukraine has dismissed the accusations as “absurd” and “dangerous”, suggesting the claims could cover up Russia’s own battlefield plans, as well as its Western allies including the UK, France and the US.

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