Russia will start nuclear exercises to test its ballistic and cruise missiles on Saturday as western powers continued to warn that the Kremlin is contemplating an imminent invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s defense ministry said on Friday that its air force, southern military district, strategic missile forces and northern and Black Sea fleets would take part in the drills.
“The strategic containment forces exercises were planned earlier to test the preparedness of military command organs, launch crews, crews on warships and strategic launch platforms to fulfill their allotted tasks, as well as the reliability of nuclear and non-nuclear strategic arms,” the ministry said, according to Interfax.
Though Russia said the drills were long planned, the US believes Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to hold them in February as a show of strength amid fears of a renewed invasion of Ukraine.
Russia has the largest nuclear forces in the world, with just under 4,500 warheads in its stockpile, and has massed 150,000 troops at the Ukrainian border according to US estimates.
The announcement came as Moscow said it would engage in fresh talks with western powers in a bid to resolve the Ukraine crisis.
Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman, said there would be “certain contacts on the working diplomatic level between foreign ministers” next week.
“Let’s see, right now it’s part of the negotiating process. But this idea should keep on going, ”Peskov told reporters on Friday.