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Russia nuclear drill: why is Vladimir Putin overseeing missile tests amid Ukraine border crisis - and reaction

Russia is set to undertake nuclear exercises, the country’s military has confirmed

The Russian military will stage nuclear exercises amid fears the country is attempting to push forward with an invasion of Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will personally oversee the exercises on Saturday (19 February), but the military say the drills have been planned for some time.

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The country has been criticised after it insisted troops were being stood down from the Ukrainian border, despite leaders such as US President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirming that there have been no signs of de-escalation.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said instead of moving troops away, more reinforcements have arrived on Russia’s border with Ukraine and says an invasion is likely to happen within the next few days.

Why is Russia holding nuclear exercises?

Russian troops are set to undertake the drills this weekend, although Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that they were no cause for concern.

Mr Peskov insisted the drills were routine, and had nothing to do with the ongoing situation.

He said: “Practice launches of ballistic missiles are part of regular training.

“They are preceded by a series of notices to other nations via different channels.”

(Credit: Kim Mogg/JPIMedia

Mr Peskov confirmed that President Putin would be overseeing the exercises from the Russian Defence Ministry’s situation room, with the Russian leader supervising the launches himself.

The Russian Military also say the practice launches were planned some time ago in order to analyse the readiness of personnel and the reliability of the weapons the country holds.

The huge practice drill will see the President Putin supervise the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

What has President Putin said about the situation?

President Putin spoke during a press conference with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, after the two allies met.

While President Lukashenko gave Putin assurances that Belarus backed Russia, the Russian leader gave more detail on the planned drills.

He said: “These military drills are not a threat to any other country and were planned.”

During the press conference, President Putin also reiterated the unsubstantiated allegation that Ukraine is committing “mass and systematic violation of human rights” in the form of a genocide against the “Russian speaking population” in eastern Ukraine.

Why is the West worried about the practice launches?

The news has been met with great concern, with opponents believing that the drills are a show of strength from Russia ahead of the possible invasion of Ukraine.

Previously, Western leaders confirmed that there had been no sign of de-escalation at the Ukrainian border.

President Putin had previously said that troops were to be stood down at the Ukrainian border, after being positioned there since November 2021, with Russia open to negotiations with the West, NATO and the US.

However, this claims has been unfounded, with leaders such as US President Biden and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that there has been no signs of de-escalation.

In fact, the US ambassador to the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Michael Carpenter, has assessed that Russia has actually increased the number of troops from 125,000 to 190,000 in and around Ukraine.

He added: “This estimate includes military troops along the border, in Belarus, and in occupied Crimea; Russian National Guard and other internal security units deployed to these areas; and Russian-led forces in eastern Ukraine.

“We have reports from multiple sources that provide detail on Russia’s efforts to fabricate supposed ‘Ukrainian provocations’ and shape a public narrative that would justify a Russian invasion.”

Russia has already been accused of facilitating ‘false flag’ operations in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine as a pretext to invade by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Mr Stoltenberg.

Ukraine have also accused Russia of 600 ceasefire violations in the Donbas region, where Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian soldiers have faced off.

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