More than 1,000 Russian military service members are practicing for nuclear war near Moscow, holding maneuver drill exercises using 100-plus vehicles including Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, according to reports citing the Russian Defense Ministry.
The exercises involve practicing “intensive manoeuvring actions on combat patrol routes” by Russia’s so-called strategic missile forces, a branch of Russian armed forces intended to serve as nuclear deterrence against possible aggression, according to Interfax.
The drills were announced hours after U.S. President Joe Biden said the U.S. will provide Ukraine with new, longer-range missile systems which can travel about 45 miles. The missiles will be part of an upcoming aid package that is valued at $700 million, according to a senior U.S. official.
Ukraine plans to use the rockets in the eastern Donbas region, where they could both intercept Russian artillery and take out Russian positions in towns where fighting is intense, such as Sievierodonetsk.
“These systems will be used by the Ukrainians to repel Russian advances on Ukrainian territory, but they will not be used on targets in Russian territory,” said the official.
After sending troops to Ukraine in late February, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made thinly veiled threats hinting at a willingness to deploy Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons.
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Putin has warned on several occasions that he will use nuclear warfare rather than concede defeat in Ukraine. On April 28, he said that Russia will respond with “instruments…nobody else can boast of” if any other country intervened.
The U.S. and other western nations have downplayed such rhetoric as saber rattling, but the increasing frequency of such messaging from Russia offers a bleak outlook of how the world is being shaped in the wake of the war in Ukraine.