President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday monitored drills by Russia’s strategic nuclear forces involving multiple practice launches of ballistic and cruise missiles rehearsing a “massive nuclear strike” by Russia, the Kremlin said.
Putin was briefed by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu about how the exercise intended to simulate Russia’s response to a nuclear attack on the country.
The Defense Ministry’s Zvezda military news channel showed Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov telling Putin the exercise involved the test-firing of a Yars intercontinental ballistic missile from the northern Plesetsk launch site and the launch of a Sineva ICBM by a Russian nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea.
As part of the exercise, Tu-95 strategic bombers also launched cruise missiles at practice targets.
“The tasks set during the training of the strategic deterrence forces were completed in full, all missiles reached their targets,” a Kremlin statement said.
The president remotely observed the annual exercise, called “Grom,” which means “Thunder” in Russia. One of its goals is to put on a show of force to intimidate enemy forces.
The last time Russia conducted its “Grom” nuclear drill was February 19, five days before its invasion of Ukraine, reported the independent Russian news site Meduza.io.
Putin was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying the potential for conflict in the world and region remained high.
The Pentagon said a day earlier that Russia had notified it of its intention to carry out the exercises at a time when NATO is rehearsing its own use of US nuclear bombs based in Europe in its annual “Steadfast Noon” war games.
The drills were held against the backdrop of growing tensions fueled by Russia’s unsubstantiated and repeated claims that Ukraine was planning to use a “dirty bomb” as part of a “false flag” attack.
Putin himself repeated the dirty bomb claim Wednesday. Shoigu also called his Chinese and Indian counterparts Wednesday to discuss it.
Kyiv and the West say there is no evidence for the allegation and that the warning could be part of Russia’s own “false flag” attack designed to serve as a justification for battlefield escalation.
Western officials have expressed fear that Moscow may be tempted to use a low-yield “tactical” nuclear weapon in Ukraine to try to force Kyiv to capitulate at a time when Ukrainian forces are advancing inside the Russian-occupied Kherson province, threatening a major defeat for Moscow.
President Biden warned Moscow Tuesday that such a move would be an “incredibly serious mistake.”
Putin, who will chair a Security Council meeting later Wednesday, has warned that Russia has the right to defend its own territory using “all means available” in its vast arsenal, which includes the world’s largest nuclear stockpile, but has not specifically spoken of tactical nuclear weapons.
On Tuesday, the National Guard of Ukraine released videos and images of what they said was Russian forces using phosphorus shells — prohibited by the Geneva Convention — in the Donetsk region.
The National Guard quoted one of its soldiers as saying: “These projectiles are dangerous because, in addition to burning all living things, they are also extremely poisonous to the environment.”
With Post wires