Moscow said on Wednesday its army had simulated the launching of nuclear-capable missiles in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad as Russian forces continue their offensives in Ukraine.
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The announcement comes on the 70th day of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine that has killed thousands and caused Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II, with more than 13 million displaced.
After Russian President Vladimir Putin deployed troops to Ukraine in late February, he issued thinly veiled threats that indicated a readiness to use tactical nuclear weapons.
During military maneuvers in the Baltic Sea enclave between EU member countries Poland and Lithuania on Wednesday, Russia simulated “electronic launches” of nuclear-capable Iskander-type mobile ballistic missile systems, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Russian forces conducted single and multiple strikes on targets simulating rocket launchers, airfields, protected infrastructure, military equipment and command posts of a fictional enemy, the statement said.
After the soldiers fired the “electronic” shots, they performed a maneuver to change positions to avoid “a possible retaliatory strike,” according to the Department of Defense.
Combat units also practiced “operations in conditions of radiation and chemical contamination.”
More than 100 soldiers took part in these exercises.
Russia placed its nuclear forces on high alert shortly after deploying troops to Ukraine on February 24.
Putin has warned of “lightning-speed” retaliation in the event of direct Western intervention in the Ukraine conflict.
According to observers, Russian state television has been trying in recent days to make the use of nuclear weapons more acceptable to the public.
“For two weeks we’ve been hearing on TV that the nuclear silos are about to be opened,” said Dmitry Muratov, editor of an independent Russian newspaper and Nobel Peace Prize winner, on Tuesday.