Russia to stage nuclear drills amid mounting tensions with the West

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Russia announced plans Friday to hold massive nuclear missile drills amid soaring tensions with the West.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that President Vladimir Putin will oversee “a planned exercise of strategic deterrence forces” Saturday “during which ballistic and cruise missiles will be launched.”

The air force, units of the southern military district, as well as the northern and Black Sea fleets would be involved, it added.

The announcement comes a day after ​US Secretary of State Antony Blinken ​warned members of the United Nations Security Council Thursday that the early stages of a Russian invasion of Ukraine were “unfolding.”

He pointed to new intelligence showing that Russia is sending more ground troops, aircraft and ships to the region, despite the Kremlin’s insistence it was withdrawing troops from the border with Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin will oversee the exercises on Saturday, Feb. 19.
Vladimir Putin will oversee the exercises on Saturday, Feb. 19.
EPA
A Ukrainian National guard soldier holds his weapon ready as he guards the mobile checkpoint on Feb. 17.
A Ukrainian National guard soldier holds his weapon ready as he guards the mobile checkpoint on Feb. 17.
AP
Valentyna Konstantynovska, 79, olds a weapon during basic combat training for civilians in Ukraine.
Valentyna Konstantynovska, 79, holds a weapon during basic combat training for civilians in Ukraine.
AP

In the starkest US warning yet of the likelihood of war, Blinken described the crisis as “the most immediate threat to peace and security” and called on the global body to “address” the situation.

Meanwhile, shellfire rang out in eastern Ukraine for a second straight day Friday as the army and Moscow-backed rebels accused each other of provocations.

An AFP reporter near the frontline between government forces and rebel-held territory in Lugansk region heard explosions and witnessed damaged civilian structures, although no deaths have been reported so far.

Russian tanks en route to Russia after  joint exercises of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus.
Russian tanks en route to Russia after joint exercises of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus.
Russian Defence Ministry/AFP via
Russian tanks mid-transport.
Russian tanks mid-transport.
EPA
Valentyna Melnychenko surveys damage to her home from an artillery shell in Vrubivka.
Valentyna Melnychenko surveys damage to her home from an artillery shell in Vrubivka.
AP

Still, Russia insists it has no plans to invade and is continuing to pull back its military presence.

“Another military train carrying personnel and military equipment belonging to tank army units of the western military district returned to their permanent bases in the Nizhny Novgorod region after completing scheduled exercises,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement Friday.

However, the West says it has seen no meaningful withdrawal.

Troops observe damage from shelling in eastern Ukraine on Feb. 17.
Troops observe damage from shelling in eastern Ukraine on Feb. 17.
AP
A damaged wall in a kindergarten classroom after the shelling in the settlement of Stanytsia Luhanska, Ukraine.
A damaged wall in a kindergarten classroom after shelling in the settlement of Stanytsia Luhanska, Ukraine.
AP
Russia said on Feb. 15 that it was pulling back some of its forces near the Ukrainian border to their bases.
Russia said on Feb. 15 that it was pulling back some of its forces near the Ukrainian border to their bases.
Russian Defence Ministry/AFP via

On Thursday, the Kremlin repeated its demand that NATO forgo future expansion and roll back its presence in Central and Eastern Europe.

With Post wires

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