Russia starts exercises of its nuclear missile forces

MOSCOW (AP) – Russia’s military on Wednesday held exercises of its Strategic Missile Forces and deployed mobile launchers in Siberia to demonstrate the country’s massive nuclear capability amid fighting in Ukraine.

As part of the exercises, the mobile Yars missile launchers will maneuver over three regions of Siberia, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The moves will include measures to conceal the deployment from foreign satellites and other intelligence assets, the ministry said.

The Department of Defense did not say how long the drills would last, nor did it mention plans for the drill launches. The Yars is a nuclear-tipped ICBM with a range of approximately 11,000 kilometers (over 6,800 miles). It forms the backbone of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces.

The Department of Defense released video showing huge trucks loaded with missiles pulling out of a base to go on patrol. According to the ministry, around 300 vehicles and 3,000 soldiers are involved in the maneuvers in eastern Siberia.

The massive exercise came days after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a plan to use tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russia’s neighbor and ally.

Intended for use on the battlefield, tactical nuclear weapons have a relatively short range and are much less effective than the long-range strategic missiles armed with nuclear warheads that can wipe out entire cities.

Putin’s decision to base the tactical weapons in Belarus followed his repeated warnings that Moscow was ready to use “all available means” – a reference to its nuclear arsenal – to repel attacks on Russian territory.

Russian officials have issued a spate of hawkish remarks since their troops invaded Ukraine, warning that continued Western support for Ukraine increases the risk of a nuclear conflict.

In a statement released Tuesday, Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, which Putin chairs, warned the United States and its allies not to harbor hopes of Russia’s defeat in Ukraine.

Patrushev claimed that some American politicians believe the US could launch a pre-emptive missile attack on Russia that Moscow could not respond to, an alleged belief he described as “short-sighted stupidity that is very dangerous.”

“Russia is patient and not trying to frighten anyone with its military superiority, but it has unique modern weapons capable of crushing any opponent, including the United States, in the event of a threat to its existence,” Patrushev said .

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