MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia test fired nuclear-capable missiles yesterday as President Vladimir Putin oversaw a dramatic military exercise and as the United States (US) again warned that it believes Moscow plans to invade Ukraine within days.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meanwhile arrived in Germany to shore up support among Western allies, despite a significant increase in shelling in the country’s east in which a Ukrainian soldier was killed.
The fierce US warnings and the evacuation of civilians from Russian-backed rebel regions in Ukraine have brought fears of a major conflict in Europe to their highest level after weeks of tensions.
The Kremlin insists it has no plans to attack its neighbour, which has angered Moscow by seeking closer ties with NATO and the European Union (EU).
But Moscow is doing nothing to reduce fears, with state media accusing Kyiv of plotting an assault on the rebel-held pro-Russia enclave in eastern Ukraine.
Russian television showed images of Putin and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko sitting at a round table in the Kremlin situation room, in front of a bank of screens showing military commanders as they test-fired their latest hypersonic, cruise and nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
“All the missiles hit their targets, confirming their performance objectives,” the Kremlin said, adding that the drills included Tu-95 bombers and submarines.
Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had made a reference to nuclear launch codes.
“Such test launches, of course, are impossible without the head of state. You know about the famous black suitcase and the red button,” he said.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said the exercise involved nearly all branches of the armed forces, including its strategic rocket forces, as well the Northern and Black Sea fleets, which have nuclear-armed submarines.